Strawberry Farmers Getting Ready for Cold Weather

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- With temperatures expected to drop into the mid 30's Wednesday night, certain crops may be at risk, especially strawberries.

At the the Cottle Strawberry Farm off of Garners Ferry Road in Columbia, they had already begun the arduous process of protecting their strawberries from the cold Wednesday afternoon.

Taelor Jordan was there picking strawberries with her family. It wasn't her first trip to the farm, but with temperatures dropping overnight, it could have been her last of the season, which typically runs from the middle of April until the end of May.

"I would feel sad," Taelor said.

That's where farm manager, Jennifer Jordan, comes in.

"We are going to the cooler to put these strawberries in the cooler," Jordan, who is not related to Taelor Jordan, said. "to have them in case we don't get our row covers laid out properly, or if there's a problem with the irrigation, you know, pipes burst. You only get one chance to do it right."

Getting it right is why Jordan and her team were working to pick strawberries from the field, mostly a precautionary measure.

"If the weather patterns change, if it gets worse than it actually says it is, we'd like to harvest as much as we can to protect what we can of them," Jordan said.

"This is the most inopportune time to be having a frost coming through," she said.

So her staff is picking as many of the fruits as they can to be stored, then they are unloaded and stored in a cooler.

But the tedious process of safeguarding does not end there.

They must also unroll nearly 40 protective covers, spreading them over most of the 12 acre field. What is not covered will be protected with a watering process Jordan said will keep the strawberries from freezing.

The strawberry season runs for about six weeks from April to the middle of May, Jordan said, and the Cottle Farm usually opens for customers on the April 1.

Jordan said they've never before had to protect against the cold at this point in the season.

"Once that plant makes a flower, every time it's freezing or below, then we've got to start frost protecting, but that's, usually for us, Feb. and March," Jordan said.

With an estimated 146,000 plants in the field, it's a tall task they have no choice but to confront.

Jordan said they will continue monitoring temperatures through the night.

They will not be able to assess the situation at their farm Thursday morning.


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