At our farm, diversity is both an ecological and economic strategy.  Growing numerous crops helps us keep at least some insect pests and diseases in check, but it also protects us from the financial damage that most farmers suffer if the weather destroys their crops or the price crashes.
We grow strawberries for many reasons.  They offer us an exciting, delicious and generally abundant item to put in  your spring CSA boxes.  They provide us with cash flow and our employees with work at an otherwise cash-negative time of year.  And every once in a while, we have a really great strawberry year, like 2012.

But strawberries are essentially a hedge for us against cool spring weather that delays the arrival of our real lifeblood:  summer crops like tomatoes and melons.  In general, if we have a good strawberry year, we have a bad tomato year and vice versa.  Occasionally both crops do well, like in 2012.  So far, thankfully, we’ve only had one year where both did poorly — 2011.

The jury is still out on whether 2013 will be a good or bad tomato year, but it’s not going to be one of our best strawberry years.  The very warm to hot weather we’ve had since April is not what makes the berry plants happy.  They are heat-stressed and cranky.  After an early and relatively heavy start, the plants have mostly given up making flowers (and thus fruit).  If we get a week or ten days of cool weather, they might rally with a final push of fruit, but those berries would be ripening in June — sometimes the hottest month of the year here.  And the trend in this year’s weather is pretty clear towards heat.

All this by way of explaining that while strawberries are normally an abundant and regular component of Terra Firma’s CSA boxes the entire month of May, from here on out they may be pretty scarce in your boxes.  That said, this week marks the sixth week you’ve gotten berries (just five weeks for Medium boxes).  Last year, the season was just one week longer.

Strawberries might not like the heat, but other crops on our farm do, and they will likely show up in your boxes earlier than they did last year.  We have already been harvesting a few ripe tomatoes from the field — just enough to eat ourselves.  So it wouldn’t be surprising if they turned up in your boxes long before June 20th, which was when we started harvesting last year.  Which would be about as close as we ever get to having things go according to plan.

How about you?  How would you rate this year’s strawberry season compared to other years.  Let us know,