Strawberry season lasts all year round in California, producing numerous strawberries weekly to meet the growing demand for the fruit. Here are four reasons California is ideal for strawberry farming:
Favorable Year-round Climate
Strawberries thrive in climates with year-round moderate temperatures, bright sunny days, and cool, humid nights. California’s Mediterranean-like environment, with distinct hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters, makes it just right for strawberry farming. This delectable fruit can be grown year-round in California, but there are still peak seasons.
The earliest strawberries in California are grown in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties. In Ventura County, Oxnard is famous for its Strawberry Festival from January through June. The height of the season is in May and June in northern areas like Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Fresno counties. Much of California has a temperate climate, so there isn’t a need to be concerned about weather extremes.
Large, Productive Lands
In the United States, strawberries are grown and harvested on over 52,000 acres, with more than half of those in California. California fields produce ten times more strawberries per acre than Michigan and 20 times more than New York, the seventh and eighth producers in the country. Most farming is in the Central Valley, a fertile region with miles of mountain ranges. Erosion from the mountains deposited rich material to create lots of arable land with water access.
California strawberries go through a meticulous agricultural process. Each delectable berry originates from a microscopic fragment of plant tissue removed from the growing strawberry stem about five years earlier. The piece is placed in a petri dish and grown into a new plant that produces dozens of offspring, known as runners. Offspring are then planted, and make more runners that are then clipped for new plants.
The plants grow in greenhouses before being transplanted into Southern California fields and then to the mountains near the California–Oregon border. The lower temperatures in these regions prime them for optimal production. Once the runners are ready, they are replanted for the final fruit harvest.
Some farms use fumigation to prepare the soil by removing pests and weeds. Organic strawberry farmers avoid this process and prefer more natural methods. Farmers also use practices like crop rotation to replenish nutrients in the soil. They cultivate strawberries in a particular field once every three to five years and occasionally longer, depending on the soil’s needs.
Sustainable Farming Practices
More organic strawberries are grown in California than in the other 49 states. One in four California strawberry farmers cultivate both conventional and organic berries. Here are some sustainable farming practices they use:
- Hand weeding instead of herbicides
- Mechanical bug vacuums instead of pesticides
- Helpful insects, such as ladybugs
- Fish emulsion in place of chemical fertilizers
Farmers are experimenting with other strategies as well. Some sterilize the soil using the sun’s heat, while others incorporate ground-up canola plant seeds. These seeds produce a chemical that temporarily suppresses dangerous fungi.
California strawberry farmers use drip irrigation to conserve water. Sprinkler water evaporates in large quantities before it touches the ground. The drip system places water in the root canal; then, farmers cover the land with plastic mulch to prevent direct water evaporation from the soil.
Strawberry Farming in California
A hard-working and knowledgeable group of people make up California’s strawberry farmers. Most started picking strawberries and eventually worked up to land ownership and crop production. They pass down strawberry farming through generations. California strawberry farmers continue spearheading research to find sustainable methods to produce great berries. Learn more about these farmers and their conservation practices.