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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2007


Contact: Kevin Hardison, marketing specialist
NCDA&CS Marketing Division
(919) 733-7887

Strawberry lovers will find N.C. berries on the market earlier

RALEIGH - Farmers markets and roadside stands will soon be awash in red, with North Carolina strawberries hitting their stride in the marketplace about 10 days earlier than normal.

Shoppers should expect to find plenty of berries in the Piedmont and Central regions of the state around April 10, thanks in part to a mild winter and early spring and a growing use of row covers by farmers to protect their crop from weather extremes.

"There's a great benefit to growers to be able to extend the growing season, so we have been seeing more and more producers using row covers as a way to produce berries earlier and longer," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "That's great news for those of us who love fresh, North Carolina strawberries and eagerly await their arrival."

Row covers are clear plastic tunnels that can be pulled across a row and held down to trap in heat and prevent freezing or wind burn. The covers can even replace the need to spray crops with water for insulation in anticipation of a late freeze.

This year's crop looks excellent and growers are hoping for a slow ease into the summer heat, said Kevin Hardison, marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Consumers will likely get to taste a new variety on the market this year. Some growers are producing the Festival variety, which is sweet like the popular Sweet Charlie variety and has a longer shelf life, Hardison said.

The three most popular varieties grown in North Carolina are Sweet Charlie, Chandler and Camerosa.

North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the United States, behind California, Florida and Oregon. In 2005, the total value of N.C. strawberries was nearly $18.5 million.

To find a local grower, farmers market or certified roadside stand for North Carolina strawberries visit www.ncfarmfresh.com.

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NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division, Brian Long, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3001; FAX: (919) 733-5047