Nancy Bauer's Champlin berry farm may have opened two weeks early this year, but she's not celebrating.
Bauer is concerned the record-warm weather that led to the early strawberry season is also contributing to what she describes as a less than stellar crop.
Smaller than usual strawberries and lower quantities of the fruit concern Bauer, as customers flock to her Champlin farm eager to pick fresh berries. Bauer attributes the weak crop to a challenging spring that saw warmer than usual weather in March, followed by a hard freeze in April, and two 90-degree days in May.
"We live with what we're given now, and that's all you can do," said Bauer.
Bauer isn't the only local strawberry grower who is concerned. Horticulturist Thaddeus McCamant of Northland College said he's seen strawberry crops of varying conditions around the state, but it's too early to call the season a bust.
McCamant said the two 90-degree days in May were bad timing for strawberries, as the fruit was just in bloom. The cooler weather in early April, including a hard frost in the metro around April 11, also did the crops no favors, according to McCamant.
"That caused a lot of problems," said McCamant.
According to DNR Climatologist Pete Boulay, the Twin Cities recorded its warmest spring since 1872 for the months of March, April and May, but it also included a cold snap in April when temperatures dipped down into the 20s.
"With any kind of weather pattern, there's always winners and losers, and determining who the winners are and who the losers are is what you find out in the supermarket, and when you go berry picking," said Boulay.
At Bauer Berry Farm, Nancy Bauer is just hoping for a good couple weeks ahead of more typical summer weather.
"Customers have been really, really happy so far, so we'll get in a couple good weeks of picking, and then we're worried about the later berries," said Bauer.
According to McCamant, the optimal conditions for strawberries right now is about 75 degrees in the day and around 50 degrees at night.
Alexandra Renslo reporting
June 6, 2012