Gilroy farm gearing up for strawberry picking season after delay due to winter storms

Lauren Martinez Image
Friday, April 28, 2023
Strawberry picking season days away for Gilroy farm
Gilroy's Berry Island Farms gearing up to open to public for strawberry picking season after delay due to winter storms.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- After weeks of delay from record rain, a "pick-your-own" strawberry farm in Gilroy is just days away from opening.

Berry Island Farms off Watsonville Road in Gilroy grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, honey and more. Their biggest seller is strawberries.

RELATED: Bay Area farmers' market vendors struggle to recover profits after setbacks from epic winter storms

Farm owner Ronald Welten says they're three weeks behind in their "U-pick" season that's open to the public.

"In a normal season, we would start in mid-April. Unfortunately due to the cold and wet spring, we're basically delayed by three weeks," Welten said.

Back-to-back storms pushed strawberry season out and delayed the re-planting of others.

"Since we haven't been able to get in the fields since last December, we weren't able to plant any spring crops. I mean normally I would have cabbage, I would have some lettuce, carrots. But we haven't been able to plant anything at all. We're basically going straight from winter to summer," Welten said.

RELATED: CA farmworkers struggle to recover from January's devastating storms

California farmworkers are facing a slow recovery process from the damage caused by the devastating storms.

Now with the warmer weather, their first berries are turning red.

"Yeah I consider myself lucky that we're standing here and we've got strawberries ready to be picked soon," Welten said.

90% of the business is a "U-pick" farm open to the public, the remaining 10% comes from purchases from local restaurants.

"The modern strawberry varieties are made for 'shelf life' basically and when you breed a strawberry for shelf life you're compromising for flavor. We don't care that much about shelf life because this is all direct marketing so we totally focus on flavor," Welten said.

RELATED: 'This is a catastrophe': Farmworkers bear the brunt of crop flooding, desperate for federal aid

While consumer impacts of the crop flooding may be lighter, farmworkers are now desperately in need of jobs, housing, and assistance.

Despite the three weeks of the farm losing out on picking, Welten doesn't plan on increasing prices. One pound of berries will remain $5.

"We're trying to keep the same prices as we did last year. On the longer term I don't know yet," Welten said.

Welten is working with the USDA to get compensated for the damage his farm did ensure from the storm. He's ball parking around 10%.

Despite the anxiety-driven season it's been he's excited to welcome people back to the farm.

Berry Island Farms will hold their season opener on Saturday, May 6 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

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