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Cold temperatures impact strawberry crop; farmers take action to protect profits

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – It’s cold! And those same chilly temperatures we are feeling are detrimental to strawberry farmers, which is why Hickory Ridge Farm is continuously taking action.

John Pierce and his wife Robin own the farm, and even though it is the "off season," the work is constant as the month of March brings with it a huge challenge.

Pierce told News 3, “There are a lot of sleepless nights as strawberry growers with frost of freeze in the month of March.” He and his sons laid down row covers on the 90 rows of 34,000 strawberry plants to protect them from the elements.

The row covers and an irrigation system are now in place to combat the frigid temperatures. You might be wondering why farmers use water when all it’s going to do is freeze and to make matters worse, but Pierce explains, “The water freezes and releases a little bit of heat and that heat will keep the beds warm and get us through the evening.”

The small buds on the strawberry plants now are just the first fruit of the season. Each plant can bloom 30-60 times for the year, but if the initial blooms are damaged by frost, cold or hail, the season is delayed and it hurts profits for the farmer.

Pierce hopes their farm will be open by mid-April, and is doing everything in his power to make sure that happens.

“We appreciate everyone coming out through the years and we look forward to another great season. We have a good crop and we look good at this point, just hoping mother nature cooperates the rest of the month,” said Pierce.

To see their official opening date, head to the Hickory Ridge Farms Facebook page.

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