Florida strawberry growers announce start of new season

Harvest will begin soon from 11,000 acres of Florida winter strawberries planted this year in a season that annually runs November through April and provides fresh-from-the-field, U.S.-grown strawberries to markets east of the Mississippi River, including the Eastern Seaboard and parts of Canada.

Be on the lookout for strawberries that will hit produce departments by Thanksgiving, according to Sue Harrell, marketing director for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. “I can’t wait until the Florida strawberries are ripe enough to pick! It won’t be long now,” she said.

“When you realize 95 percent of consumers purchase strawberries, it is advantageous to any produce department to have them available year round. The Florida production bridges the winter gap for strawberries produced in the United States.”

The “Florida Radiance” variety will dominate the harvest during the 2014-2015 season. In addition to “Florida Radiance,” growers and researchers will be keeping an eye on a newly released variety – “Florida 127” – from the University of Florida’s strawberry breeding program. This variety will be planted on a limited number of acres this season, and it has received overwhelming reviews in terms of flavour, according to FSGA. The aim is to produce what consumers want, and that’s sweeter berries with a longer shelf life. Researchers believe this variety will set the standard for all others to follow.

Florida growers are investing heavily in the breeding program at the University of Florida, according to Parker. “Our goal is to create and maintain satisfied customers at a reasonable and profitable level for the growers. The way to accomplish this goal is to produce strawberries that meet or exceed customers’ expectations. The desirable sweet flavour is one step toward attaining this unique status.”

Plant City, Fla., has been proclaimed “The Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.” The ideal climate and productive soils, along with dedicated family farms that have existed for many generations, provide the most locally grown and “Fresh from Florida” strawberries during the winter months.

Local growers and members of the FSGA produce about 15 percent of the nation’s strawberries and virtually all the berries grown during the winter. The commodity has an economic impact on the local community exceeding $700 million.

For more information about FSGA, visit www.flastrawberry.com.

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