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Rainy June After Bitter Winter Is Bad News For Long Island Strawberries

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CALVERTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — This rainy week has taken its toll on local farmers, with fruits and vegetables hungry for sunshine after already having been delayed by the cool spring.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the berries on Long Island’s North Fork were big and beautiful, but farmer Jeff Rottkamp said they could use a dash of sunlight.

“The strawberries like sun. They taste better when it’s sunny out, and a little drier weather would help,” said Rottkamp, owner of Fox Hollow Farm.

This past damp and cloudy week did not help Long Island farmers after an extra-long and cold winter. Rain is needed, but too much of a good thing can bring fungal diseases.

“It seems every June, we always get a week of wet and fog, and it’s not good for strawberries. It’s not good for anything, really, for produce,” said Joe Gergela of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

Cooler weather also delayed planting, and could cause gaps in the corn harvest.

But sunshine is on tap for the 60th annual Mattituck Strawberry Festival — a celebration of the start of peak season featuring carnival rides and plenty of strawberries.

“Chocolate-covered strawberries; strawberries for sale,” said Mattituck Lions Club Strawberry Festival chairman Tim Bialeski.

Tens of thousands of local strawberries have already hulled and washed, and were being mashed for the festival.

“Part of it goes to the daiquiris, and the rest to the shortcake,” Bialeski said.

But the strawberries for the festival had to be supplemented by out-of-state berries.

“It wasn’t a big supply because of the rain, and not the greatest weather,” Bialeski said.

But there is no shortage of local lettuces, asparagus, peas and rhubarb — all of which are faring better than last June when three times the average rain flooded fields.

Farmers said one or two good sunny days will sweeten the strawberry crop.

“We’ve got two to three weeks of great berries,” Rottkamp said.

The Strawberry Festival also marks the start of the U-pick season, where people may come out to the East End of Long Island, pick local, and judge for themselves how sweet it is.

The Mattituck Strawberry Festival starts Sunday. Admission is free for fathers attending with a child on Father’s Day.

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