Strawberry season begins today
HERON LAKE -- They are sweet, they are juicy and, starting this morning, they can be picked at the peak of perfection. Strawberry season is upon us, and Schumacher's Nursery and Berry Farm on the outskirts of Heron Lake is kicking off the berry-p...
HERON LAKE -- They are sweet, they are juicy and, starting this morning, they can be picked at the peak of perfection.
Strawberry season is upon us, and Schumacher's Nursery and Berry Farm on the outskirts of Heron Lake is kicking off the berry-picking season today.
The strawberry season is relatively short-lived in Minnesota -- generally two to three weeks on average -- but Adam Schumacher is hopeful for an extended season this year after an ideal winter snow covering and fairly good spring growing conditions.
"The way they bloomed, we'll have a nice long season and we'll have a lot of berries later on," said Schumacher. "We had a very nice April, which moved them along. They're a bit earlier this year."
Schumacher and his brother Trent, along with their families and nine full-time employees, keep the 12-acre strawberry farm weeded and watered in the spring to make for a good looking crop at harvest.
"We do a lot of hand weeding. It's just like having a 12-acre garden," he added.
Beginning today through the rest of the picking season, the berry farm will be open from 6:30 a.m. to noon, seven days a week.
The farm sells berries by the pound, and it's a pick-your-own operation. Schumacher does provide names and numbers of independent contractors -- people from the community willing to pick berries for a fee -- to assist customers who prefer that option.
Most people still prefer to pick their own crop, however, and Schumacher said for some it has become a family tradition.
"It's a big social event," he said, adding that families bring their children and grandchildren to help pick.
"It's good for kids to come and see how things grow and are harvested," said Schumacher. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers for picking, although flats are available at the berry farm for those who need them.
The family's strawberry patch dates back to Schumacher's great-grandparents, who purchased the farm a quarter-mile north of Heron Lake in 1915.
"My great-grandmother raised strawberries as an extra source of income," said Schumacher. By the 1950s, the family converted to a "you-pick" system.
While the size of the strawberry patch fluctuates based on competition from other growers, the Schumachers have maintained a 12-acre patch for the last several years. They grow three main varieties of strawberries for sale, trying to cover the early, mid and late season.
"We've always got a sample row," Schumacher said, adding that they have 10 to 12 different varieties growing at this time. They are always looking out for new varieties that do well in the southwest Minnesota climate.
Each strawberry patch has a lifespan of three or four years, and is then tilled up and replanted. The Schumachers have a system in which a percentage of their patch is new growth each year.
Having grown up in the strawberry business, Schumacher said he never really thought about doing anything else. Besides, there's nothing better than a home-grown, bright red strawberry.
"You can buy strawberries from the store but they're shipped in from wherever and have been sitting on a truck for a week," he said. "We try to be an economical producer."
In addition to the strawberry farm, the Schumachers also own a nursery and grow trees and shrubs for the Soil and Water Conservation District's tree planting programs.