'To grow it here in your own town is really amazing': Strawberry season arrives in southwestern Ontario
CHATHAM, ONT. -- Strawberry season in southwestern Ontario is here, but at Parks Blueberries near Bothwell, Ont. things are winding down before they pick up.
The long standing blueberry farm recently began growing organic greenhouse strawberries to counter the off-season of local field strawberries.
“We usually see our strawberries coming from different countries, but to grow it locally, I think it’s amazing,” says co-owner Hope Parks.
Parks says she and her husband Bruce began building a one-acre strawberry greenhouse next to their 45-acre blueberry field in 2019, with production beginning last September.
“There is a lot of science to it. There’s a lot of love and passion that these people have put into it,” Parks says.
She expects the inaugural season of greenhouse berries to come to a close before the end of the month because it will be too hot for the plants to survive inside.
“They’re only good for one season,” Parks explains. “It will be so hot in the greenhouse that they will not flower anymore.”
Parks says it was a challenging year on top of COVID-19, but it allowed the family owned farm to experiment and learn the new venture of roughly 45,000 strawberry plants.
“To grow it here in your own town is really amazing. You know where it’s coming from. You know it’s clean. You can take pride in it,” Parks tells CTV News, “Sometimes when we go to the grocery store in the winter months and you buy a strawberry that’s $9 a pound, you think to yourself why?”
Meantime, field strawberry season typically lasts through Canada Day weekend according to Sarah Graham at Sarah’s Farm Market who grows their own and sells Parks’ strawberries throughout the rest of the year.
“We almost can carry them around year-round now,” Graham says.
She says the demand for local produce has increased since the pandemic onset.
“People are really realizing how much fresher, how much nicer better product, better pricing you can get with the buy local.” Graham adds, “We’re seeing a trend in the positive direction in that way and we’re hoping it’ll continue after COVID-19 issues are all over and done with.”
The next growing season of Parks Blueberries strawberries will begin in August 2021.