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2021 strawberry season is underway in N.C.
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2021 strawberry season is underway in N.C.

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Country Roads Strawberries

One-gallon boxes of strawberries are ready for pickup, Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at Country Roads Strawberries in Pinnacle.

RALEIGH — April signals the start of strawberry season in North Carolina, and local growers are optimistic about the 2021 season and anticipate a crop that should last through Memorial Day, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

"The recent hard frost kept strawberry growers busy protecting the plants' tender blooms, but farmers have reported that those efforts seem to have been successful and consumers will be able to find local berries," Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. "I enjoy seeing fresh North Carolina strawberries at pick-your-own farms, roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores. I know they will be the freshest and best tasting berries available."

The N.C. Strawberry Association provides a listing of you-pick strawberry farms with contact information at www.ncstrawberry.com/farm-locator.

North Carolina ranks fourth nationally in strawberry production, growing 1,100 acres of strawberries annually.

In 2020, the strawberry season began around the time the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in North Carolina. Growers responded by taking additional measures to protect employees and consumers, including installing additional hand washing stations; providing hand sanitizers for employees and customers; requiring employees to wear disposable gloves while handling produce; and ensuring sick employees stay home.

In addition, several pick-your-own farms encouraged social distancing by limiting the number of rows that could be picked and limiting groups to 10 people or less. Many strawberry farms are continuing the practices started last year for this season.

The N.C. Strawberry Association will host two contests on its Facebook page, @NCStrawberry. A recipe contest and a strawberry photo contest will be held during the strawberry season, and winners will receive a prize. Visit the association's Facebook page to enter the contests, beginning Thursday.

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