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Rains creating troublesome harvest season for strawberry farmers

Rains are expected to return this Friday which is creating a troublesome harvest season for some organic strawberry farmers.

Strawberries planted by Arroyo Grande farmer Jerry Rutiz of Rutiz Family Farms could be in trouble. “If the forecast is true and we get one to two inches of rain on Friday, it will destroy any of the ripe fruit that’s on the plant,” explains Rutiz.

Berry plants that were planted back in October have been enjoying the rain so far. “They love to have the rain and the water while they’re growing vegetatively so to have a good amount of rain during December, January, and February is a good thing for the plants,” Rutiz says.

But now berries are sprouting and the organic farming practices don’t allow for the fungicidal sprays conventional farmers use to create a sort of protective skin around the fruit.

“So when we get over a quarter inch of rain it starts to cause the berries to break down, they go slimey, [and ]they might start growing mold,”Rutiz explains.

Rutiz says he’s planning on harvesting these berries ahead of Friday’s storms in order to ensure none go to waste. “We’ll pick them the day before hand and get them into our shed so that they will be dry and won’t be affected by the rain,” added Rutiz.

Almost all of the berries the Rutiz family grow get sold at their berry stand, so some of the berries that you see in the field Wednesday, could be on your plate by Friday or Saturday.

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