More NC Farmers Opting Out Of Organic Strawberry Business

May 7, 2018

North Carolinians are finding fewer local producers who offer organic strawberries in 2018.
Credit NC Strawberry Association

Many North Carolina farmers have opted out of the organic strawberry business, saying conventional berries are hard enough to grow.

They have a long growing season and are very vulnerable to weather and temperature changes. Add to that, restrictions on pesticides and herbicides, and many farmers say it's just too risky to grow organic strawberries. But that risk is paying off for some this season.

Eli Humiston, owner of Sweetwater Springs Organic Farm in Roxoboro, said just in the last month, they put on probably six inches of growth, and sprouted berries all over the place.

“They're turning red, and I'm harvesting every two days,” Humiston said. “It's just a really fulfilling thing to get out there and see this great fruit growing, and take it and bring it out to people to enjoy.”

Humiston said he's selling out at his CSA and local farmers’ markets.

Debbie Roos, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Chatham County, specializes in organic produce. She said even conventional strawberries are "finicky," with a long growing season and extreme vulnerability to weather and temperature changes.

“There's just a lot of things that can go wrong,” Roos said. “But you know, when everything aligns, it's really nice to get beautiful berries, and everybody loves that. They can certainly be profitable. It's just risky.”

Roos said it seems to be a good season for strawberries, provided it doesn't get too hot too quickly. She says buying organic strawberries from local producers will encourage them to keep growing them.