Strawberry season is nearly over

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2003

Strawberries are ripe right now, but time for picking is going fast.

In Farmer John's fields west of Lansing, there's about one week left to harvest, and good berries won't be around much longer.

"There's some," said picker Sara Romeo, 16. "But they're kind of sparse."

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Owner John Ulland thought he would have more fruit than he could get rid of this year. He had planted a lot more than usual. As it turns out, though, he needed every one of those plants.

"It was too cool early, and then it was too dry," Ulland said.

Nonetheless, harvesters are having a good time.

Sara and her brother, Mike Romeo, 14, are neighbors of the Ullands and spend their summers helping out in the fields.

"It's pretty fun when it's muddy," Mike said. "You slide in the dirt and stuff.

And it's easier on your knees; they don't get as crusty."

There are three ways to get berries from Farmer John's. Every week, their fruit can be bought at the farmers' markets in Austin and Blooming Prairie. They also take orders from customers. Then there are the people that like to come out and get dirty picking their own.

Jan Ulland said nostalgia is the main reason people come out to pick. People think back to their grandparents' farms.

"It's kind of an old-fashioned thing," she said. "If you're looking back, almost every family had a strawberry patch."

However, like most activities from the past, it will require a little work.

"It's pretty physical," Jan said. "It's up and down. It's hard on the knees."

Fresh berries are sweeter, so there really is an advantage to getting them right from the field. She said stuff shipped in from other states is usually picked before it is ripe.

If you miss the season for strawberries, raspberries should be ready for harvest in two or three weeks, Jan said. This is the first year they are really offering the opportunity to pick raspberries.

John said not to lose hope for the harvests. A change in weather can turn a bad crop around quickly.

"It always surprises us," he said. "After the rain, it seems like magic happens, and you've got berries again."

If you would like to pick your own berries at Farmer John's, call 437–2642.

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at