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Field Notes | The Magic that Makes Organic Strawberries Special

It’s organic strawberry season in North and South Carolina, and it’s one of the seasons we look forward to the most. Although you can find organic strawberries year-round on the East Coast thanks to solar tunnels, there’s nothing like the taste of an organic strawberry during the fruit’s natural season. The season is short, lasting from April to June, and our customers do not take the time for granted. Almost every single organic strawberry in the field is always accounted for before they hit Happy Dirt’s loading dock. Yes, organic strawberries are that special.

why are organic strawberries special?

man looks to pick an organic stawberry while farmer looks on

Strawberries are delicate fruits . Harvest may be one of the most intensive tasks of the season, as you have to pick them several times a week and have a short window between them being underripe and overripe. “The best a strawberry will ever be is when you come out here. And if we missed a day, pick it. Then it will be the best, ” says organic farmer Randy Massey about strawberry harvest. “If they are moving quick and they are moving as fast as we can get them, then we can leave them one more day. It’s hard to figure this out.”

Not only do farmers have to be diligent on ripeness and quality, but they also have to carefully remove them from the field and immediately place them in a cooler. Cooling the organic strawberries is vital for the fruit to last until they get to the grocery store shelves. We really appreciate the farm workers this time of year, as strawberry harvest is a highly skilled task.  

Like all fruits and vegetables, a strawberry crop’s survival depends on the weather. Being as delicate as they are, strawberries depend even more on consistent, kind weather in order to thrive. As a matter of fact, Randy is the only Happy Dirt farmer owner who grew organic strawberries this year because the weather wiped out another Happy Dirt farmer owner’s strawberry crop in Eastern North Carolina in early 2022. Randy is lucky that his organic strawberries survived the five degree weather in December 2022. We are lucky, too. 

the magic is in the soil.

two ripe organic strawberries and one unripe organic strawberry in a field

While the strawberry’s delicate nature, short season, and intense harvest time make it special, the real magic of organic strawberries come from the soil. Like all organic farmers, Randy takes great care of the soil from which all of his organic produce grows. He adds beneficial microbes to the soil, which give the soil an extra boost of organic nutrients, and plants oats as a general cover crop

Growing between each strawberry row, oats act as a winter-killed cover crop. The oats suppress weeds in the aisles and hold the soil in place, which reduces erosion.  They feed the microbial life in the soil and store excess nutrients for the winter. Oats make the organic matter in the soil happy, which in turn makes the organic strawberries happy. You know when you can feel the difference when friends or family members add positive routines into their lives? You can taste when strawberries are grown in happy, organic soil. The flavor has beautiful dimension and pops with each bite. 

If you are interested in learning more about seasonal crops and what Happy Dirt farmers are up to, you can sign up to receive our Field Notes newsletter. Once a month, Happy Dirt’s grower services coordinator, Taylor Holenbeck, will detail what’s to come in the month and season ahead. We are proud to have farmers in our network that take such good care of the land, insuring many more harvests to come.

Want to get creative with organic strawberries? Check out our chilled organic strawberry soup

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