To many, nothing says summer like the first local ripe strawberry of the season. A versatile fruit, strawberry (Fragaria spp.) can be consumed fresh, frozen or in processed foods. Growers able to provide the earliest crop of these popular berries will often have the marketing edge.
The quality of Kentucky-grown strawberries can be far superior to berries that are shipped in. There is a strong market for local berries, particularly near population centers. Strawberries have in the past been a popular U-Pick crop; Kentucky producers report rising interest in buying pre-picked strawberries. Other direct marketing options include roadside stands, farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) shares. Some producers use crop surpluses to produce jams and jellies for local sale.
For best results, select a site with deep, sandy loam soil well supplied with organic matter. Clay soils can produce a good crop if the site has been prepared to drain well and has added organic matter. Fields with heavy perennial weed pressure should not be planted to strawberries. Avoid fields that have been in potatoes, tobacco, peppers, eggplants or tomatoes due to potential problems with Verticillium wilt. Strawberries need to be located on ground higher than the surrounding area to reduce the chance of spring frost damage. A water supply needs to be available nearby since irrigation is a necessity for commercial production. Some growers install overhead sprinklers if an ample water supply is available, because this system can also be used to help prevent frost and freezing injury.