Strawberry season mostly on track despite spring weather in the Northwoods
The weather in Northern Wisconsin this spring has been a bit of a whiplash.
April brought record-setting snowfall to Merrill with more than seven inches of snow on the first, then 12 days later it set a new record high for the day at 84 degrees.
Michael Matushak and his wife Jeanine own Engelberry Farm in Merrill.
He usually tries to get mulch off the field to start growing around mid-April, this year it didn’t happen until the end of the month.
“You know, you think, well I’m 10 days behind already here. Is this going to affect my picking time? Well, not always,” he explained. “They will catch themselves up based on the way the weather is prior to the time you take the mulch off to the time you start picking. We’ve balanced out a little bit already with the warmer weather.”
Matushak says the recent cooler night haven’t been enough to harm the growing process, though they did have to take some precautions against frost.
The smoky haze we’ve seen this spring can also impact the growing season.
“I’ve been doing this for like 40 years. I remember where we did have fires. I think they came from the West. What it does is it just slows up the ripening cycle because you don’t get the direct sunlight when you’ve got the smoke there,” said Matushak. “It doesn’t change anything in association to the berry in terms of how it grows and what it does. Just timing based on you might not get as warm as you would if the sun was directly out.”
Despite some of these challenges this year, Matushak says picking is only a few days behind.
Typically, the strawberries are to harvest around June 20. Matushak is thinking the first rounds of picking will start by this Sunday.
Harvest usually lasts around three weeks.
Whether it’s his strawberries or any other kind of fruit or vegetable you’re looking to buy, Matushak encourages people to buy local.
“Anything that’s locally [grown] from Wisconsin that you can get, I think you’re always going to be better off. The strawberries are going to be noticeably different tasting when they come from us because they’re fresh. They’re ripened on the vine and you’re picking them right there,” said Matushak.
Matushak recommends people always check with a U-pick farm before heading out.
Engelberry Farm has a hotline number you can call at 715-536-9091 or Facebook group you can join to get updates.