Strawberries ripe for the picking in Clark County

Crop conditions are ideal and production is up

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Farms all over Clark County are harvesting strawberries this week and, at first glance, crop conditions are ideal and production is up.

A few hot days in May, followed by a few showery days and, now, mid-70-degree weather has made for perfect harvesting conditions, said Bill Zimmerman, co-owner of Bi-Zi Farms, 9504 N.E. 119th St. He said Mother Nature appears to be cooperating with local berry farmers. For example, his farm’s hired pickers are harvesting anywhere from 2,500 pounds to 3,000 pounds of strawberries a day now, slightly better than in 2013.

“This year has been an excellent year,” Zimmerman said.

He characterized the strawberry-picking season as one that can last up to 40 days, from the last few days of May through the first days of July, unless the weather turns unusually warm.

“When it gets really hot, they (strawberries) quit producing,” Zimmerman said. “That’s one of the reasons we do so well here (in the Pacific Northwest),” he said.

All of the strawberries produced at Bi-Zi Farms are sold in the operation’s barn-red farm store along 119th. Zimmerman sells the berries for about $21.95 per 10-pound flat. The sales have drawn all manner of jelly and jam makers, along with anyone who appreciates the fresh-picked sweetness of the vine-ripened fruit.

“There are some days when the parking lot is full,” Zimmerman said.

For now, the farm is well staffed for picking and processing the berries, too, said Zimmerman, who doesn’t anticipate any problems with this year’s strawberry harvest. But he will need a few more workers in a couple of weeks, when Bi-Zi Farms’ blueberries and raspberries start to ripen while workers are still harvesting strawberries.

“It gets a little harried around here,” said Zimmerman, who co-owns the family farm with his wife, Peggy Zimmerman, and his son and daughter-in-law, Doug and Sadie Zimmerman.

Bill Zimmerman does not anticipate having any issues with this year’s blueberry crop, but he is a little bit worried about the season’s raspberries, due to the spotted wing drosophila, a fruit fly that poses a huge threat to this year’s crop.