VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Above-normal and even record-breaking temperatures have caused all sorts of trees and plants to begin to bloom much earlier than they typically do.
That includes the largest fruit crop in Hampton Roads, Virginia: strawberries.
At Vaughan Farm’s Produce off Princess Anne Road in the Pungo section of Virginia Beach, three different varieties of strawberries are grown: Sweet Charlie’s, Chandler’s and Ruby Junes.
As of Feb. 24, all three types had flowers. Farm owner Robert Vaughan said that means they will be ready to pick earlier than they usually are.
“Basically, it takes around 30 days to go from a flower to fruit, edible fruit,” Vaughan said.
He expects the first berries to be ready around April 1.
“Now keep in mind if we get a cold spell, it could delay it a little bit, but not a lot,” Vaughan said. “We still have the covers in the fields. And so anytime that we’re talking in the 30’s at night, we will deploy the covers and protect any flowers and any fruit from this point on.”
Vaughan’s family has farming roots in the Virginia Beach area going back to the 1600s. He said climate change is clearly changing things, but this year, so has the supply chain.
“We have seen them in February, but they haven’t been this large a quantity of fruit coming off,” Vaughan said.
He attributes the larger quantity to the fact that he didn’t plant seeds until late October this past year because of a shortage getting seeds.
Virginia Beach is the largest strawberry producing county/city in the state of Virginia, according to the city. The mild oceanic climate and productive soils, along with a large consumer base, makes this an ideal location for producing strawberries. The value of the crop ranges from $750,000 to $1 million per year.
Vaughan said to keep an eye on the farm’s Facebook page for the opening of you-pick strawberries.