H-SANTA MARIA

Mar 1, 2012 9:56 PM by Nikki Ibarra

Strawberry growers ahead of the game this season

Strawberry season doesn't officially start on the Central Coast until spring. But some growers are getting ahead of the game.

According to the California Strawberry Commission, California produces almost 90% of the nation's strawberries. About 25% of the strawberries in California are grown in Santa Maria.

Strawberry picking at Daren's Berries began February 1st, a month earlier than last year; and that's good news for Carmen Tabaras.

"I love it. I've been craving um, going to stands in San Luis and they didn't offer any, you know. I drove by Santa Maria and I saw this one and I was like, oh great, I have to get some," said Tabaras. Carmen drove from San Luis Obispo Thursday afternoon just to get her hands on the strawberries.

This time last year, production hadn't even begun. In fact, this stand wasn't even open until mid-March.

"Yeah, we had to start early because of the weather," said Jacob Carranza, employee at Daren's Berries.

Daren's Berries said the warm weather and lack of rain has sped up the production time schedule.

"The strawberries you buy in December, they don't have much taste. It's the color. The color is beautiful so you think that the taste is the same but it's not. So you count the weeks and say, oh my gosh, we're getting there," said Santa Maria resident, Isa Ponce-Jimenez.

But this weather hasn't necessarily been good for growers. In fact, the dryness has brought them problems.The lack of rain causes salt issues. Because of fertilization and irrigation, salt will build up around the berries, but rain melts them away.

"A lot of people who live out here, they love fresh fruit. You know, whether it's oranges or strawberries, or all the other things that come out of here and so strawberries are such a big part of this valley," said Santa Maria resident, Bill Albanese.

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