Massachusetts Agricultural Officials Welcome the First Fruit of the Season - Strawberries
According to a census for strawberry production conducted every five years, the number of acres used to yield strawberries increased from 267 acres harvested in 2002 to 300 in 2007. Agriculture officials urge Massachusetts residents to keep supporting the local farms to keep these numbers growing.
"Locally grown strawberries are fresher and taste better -- an important reason to shop at your local farms," said Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott J. Soares. "Loaded with Vitamin C and high in fiber, folate, potassium and antioxidants, strawberries are ready for picking. I encourage the people of Massachusetts to enjoy the first fruit of the season!"
Although cold weather and rain initially caused the strawberries to ripen slightly smaller than usual, the recent warm weather has reversed that trend and should assure that berries have good flavor. Farmers are optimistic about their crops as they prepare to harvest and sell their strawberries over the next few weeks.
"Our strawberries look great this year! We are a little late opening due to the cool May, but the recent warm weather is bringing them along nicely," said Ellen Parlee, owner of Parlee Farms in Tyngsboro. "We actually missed all those storms recently - they went around Tyngsboro. We have irrigation and have been watering them."
Over the month of June, strawberry festivals will be held throughout the Commonwealth. Connors Farm in Danvers is having a strawberry festival -- which also includes live music, hayrides, and face painting -- on Saturday, June 18 from 9 am to 6 pm.
Strawberry season is the perfect time to make jams, jellies, and pies. While purchasing your pints and quarts of strawberries, ask for delicious recipes recommended by the growers. A great and easy strawberry jam recipe can be found at http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Ball-Strawberry-Jam/Detail.aspx.
Fresh, new strawberries can be found at local farmers' markets, roadside farm stands, or pick-your-own operations. Strawberry farms all over Massachusetts are welcoming people from far and wide to taste their locally grown crop. Information about the locations of these farms as well as information on Strawberry events and festivals can be found at www.mass.gov/massgrown. This site offers lists of agricultural destinations all over Massachusetts and is a great way to find farms in your area. Details regarding festivals and special events are also listed, as well as hours the farms are open to the public.
DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions -- Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance -- the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr , and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish.