Mesopotamia farm is open for strawberry season

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Anthony Dilauro, 3, left, holds up a freshly picked strawberry as his mother, Liz Dilauro of Moreland Hills, takes his photograph Friday morning at Ridgeview Farm in Mesopotamia. Friday was the first day of the farm’s pick-your-own season, which the owners said began 10 days later than normal.

MESOPOTAMIA — The strawberry season is debuting about 10 days later than normal because there has been so much rain this spring, according to the owners of Ridgeview Farm.

Ohio’s strawberry season lasts about three to four weeks, and harvesting usually begins between June 1 and 10.

“We got a lot of rain all at once. It’s easier to maintain when it rains and we get a half inch or so, but when we get 2 to 3 inches at a time, it could harm the strawberries,” Ridgeview Farm owner Steve Grover said.

Grover has been planting strawberries and letting the public come out to pick their own since 1996. Last year was the first year they didn’t do so.

“Last year, we didn’t have a good set, so we just picked enough for the store. We got some winter damage, and although the plant lives, it’s stressed and won’t send as many blooms, meaning not as much fruit,” Grover said. “This happens about one or two times out of 25 years.”

The farm is now open for people to pick their own strawberries.

Grover said he can’t control the weather, but does what he can to compensate for Mother Nature. He covers the plants with straw to protect them in the winter and said this year’s plants were damage-free. Grover combats the rain, which is this year’s concern, with an irrigation system to help draw the water off the fields. The system has been in place since the 1990s and helps keep the fields from flooding and damaging the crops.

“Nothing’s foolproof, but I’m very happy with everything and so far, we can offer you a good pick,” Grover said.

According to the pickers at the farm Friday, the rain and last year’s damage had no effect on the berries.

Kelly Hirsh of Huntsburg brought her daughter Hannah, 2, to pick strawberries for the first time. Hannah picked for a little while before starting to eat the berries right off the plant.

“These are well worth the wait; they look delicious,” Hirsh said.

Hirsh said she was picking the berries to eat and to make strawberry shortcake, a fitting dessert for National Strawberry Shortcake Day, which was Friday.

Kelly Graham and Dustin Passek of Warren said they come out every year to pick strawberries.

“I like doing the work, and I know where the berries come from. I know the owners, and I know they don’t use chemicals on them,” Passek said. “I’ll probably make some jam if they make it that far.”