Strawberry farmers brace for more sub freezing temperatures

Strawberry farmers brace for more sub freezing temperatures

PONCHATOULA (WVUE) - Northshore strawberry farmers are bracing for another hard freeze after a long week. They worry about keeping fabric covers on too long as they protect against the bitter cold and other threats.

He walks the same Strawberry Fields his father and grandfather did before him.

“My grandfather had this whole place in berries back in the 40s. He had a couple of hundred acres but that’s gone now,” said Eric Morrow of Ponchatoula. He says there used to be hundreds of strawberry farms in Ponchatoula area, now he’s one of three.

“We used to run them out to rail cars all the time, and that’s way before my time,” he said.

For over a week now Morrow has had to cover his crops due to the frigid cold.

But keeping these tender crops covered too long is a concern.

“It’s not really good, creating a microenvironment, you might get fungus. It’s like a greenhouse effect,” Morrow said.

Aside from the cold, farmers like Morrow also have a four-legged enemy they have to protect against.

“The last few years has been a lot of deer out this way... I guess it’s all this new construction, they’re all moving in,” he said.

Morrow now protects his 12 acres with an electric fence.

“They will get in there at night and eat a pile of berries, they love lush green plants,” he said.

It is a ritual he and other farmers in the region have grown accustomed to, working the land and watching the weather.

“We’ve had to have this discussion with the kids and the wife because when Shelby comes along we have to watch her forecast,” said neighboring farmer Matthew Fletcher.

As the bitter cold continues, so far the crop looks good.

And he’s hoping with the strawberry festival canceled this year due to Covid, shoppers buy local.

“They’re better! They’re better and they’re worth it,” he said

The coronavirus has impacted strawberry farmers in other ways this year. It also threatened the availability, of the fiber covers they use to protect from freezes. That material is used for making PPE, and was in short supply this year.

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