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North Alabama Strawberries Are Back After an Early Spring Freeze

North Alabama strawberries are back and people are berry happy. Multiple exclamation points follow Facebook posts with pictures of buckets of berries brought home and one of the area’s biggest strawberry farmers is breathing a sigh of relief.

A cold snap in March killed more than a few early strawberries in Madison County this year, farmers say. Katie Magee, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Huntsville, confirmed the cold saying temperatures were between 18 and 21 degrees Fahrenheit for four days from March 18 to March 21.

That was after temperatures in the 60s and 70s had “everything greened up,” Magee said. The result was a blow for strawberries and a lot of other early greenery.

“We covered them up, but we couldn’t protect them down to 19 degrees,” Noel Brown of Browns Strawberry Farm said Friday of his crop in north Madison County. Brown’s business is a popular pick-your-own or buy-a-bucket spot.

Alabama strawberries
A group of young school children pick strawberries May 5, 2023 at Brown Strawberry Farm in northern Madison County, Ala., An outing to pick berries is a popular Spring field trip.

“We were open for three or four days,” Brown said of this short-circuited early March. “If you remember, trees put out buds early this year. Well, it did the same thing to the strawberries.”

A night or two of 19-degree temperatures killed the early buds. Farm workers covered the plants, but Brown said they couldn’t protect them at that temperature.

Brown’s wasn’t the only crop at risk. West of Huntsville near Athens, another popular farm-to-customer operation, Isom’s Orchard, posted pictures on social media of peach tree buds in coats of ice sprayed on by crews that worked all night. It’s called a “frost shield,” the orchard said, and it’s better to wear a 32-degree coat than face temps in the teens uncovered.

Isom’s and Brown’s both have strawberries now, according to a visit and social media. Isom’s couldn’t be reached by phone Friday to talk about the peaches’ progress, but Brown’s had a steady stream of customers Friday morning including a class of young students picking their own berries.

Brown also grows cotton, corn, soybeans and corn and has been in the strawberry business for 26 years. People come back every year, he said, and the farm has accommodated them with a gift shop and a choice between pre-picked strawberries or buckets to fill yourself.

A popular drive-through pickup spot is also open this year. It was started during the pandemic to keep the business going and proved popular, Brown said.

Brown said strawberries should be available for another 2 or 3 weeks, maybe longer. The business is open six days a week from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 6 p.m.

Source : AL