The strawberry marketing season in North Carolina got off to a good start in April.

It might have been in part because Easter fell closer than usual to the beginning of harvest. Also, the growing conditions had been good, and North Carolina strawberries looked and tasted great.

But one grower said customers seemed a little more willing to buy strawberries this spring.

“It seems like the economy must be picking up,” said Roger Ball of Raleigh, N.C. “I am selling everything I have to sell.”

The last two years, Ball said he had to go out and find new customers because his existing ones were buying less. “Now our customers seem to be buying more,” he said. “I am no economist, but I wonder if maybe they are tired of the recession, and they are spending a little more than in the past.”

It helped that North Carolina strawberries featured good quality early in the marketing season. “This could be the best crop I have had in the nine years I have been growing strawberries,” said Ball in April.

The weather cooperated. He had no frost and escaped any damage from the April 16 storm.

Ball sells most of his produce at a roadside stand and pick-your-own operation at his farm a few miles south of Raleigh. He also sells at some traditional Saturday morning farmers markets.

But in addition, in the last few years he has tried to expand his market in some non-traditional locations.

One worked out well this year. Every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Ball sets up a stand on the grassy mall right behind the state government buildings in Raleigh, and he sells strawberries and other produce to the state workers who pass by.

“The North Carolina Department of Agriculture helped us get this going,” said Ball. “We can sell any fresh produce as long as it is North-Carolina-grown.”

And just last year, Ball started selling at a Wednesday lunchtime market at a plaza in downtown Raleigh surrounded by tall buildings. Both locations have generated a lot of sales.

But another non-traditional sales location didn’t work out so well. He sold for a couple of years at a Saturday morning farmers market at an upscale mall in north Raleigh. But he didn’t go back this year, mainly because of conflict with small farmer-vendors who charge higher prices than Ball does.