The recent cold spell may have slowed the arrival of strawberries, but it has done nothing to diminish the quality and quantity growers expect this year, said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

“Growers across the state have reported that the warm winter in mid-March had strawberries ahead of their normal production schedule, but thankfully the recent cold snap has only slowed their progress down slightly and has not caused loss of berries,” Troxler said. “Growers have used row covers and irrigation to protect the plants and will continue to do so until nighttime temperatures warm up.”

Growers are expecting an excellent crop, and barring an extended cold snap, consumers should find plenty of North Carolina berries starting around mid-April, said Heather Lifsey, marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Consumers in the eastern part of the state can expect to find strawberries ready around April 11, while those in the Piedmont should be ready for picking by April 15. In the western part of the state, growers estimate the date strawberries should be ready to pick is on April 17.

Weather will continue to play a role in when strawberries are ready, so Troxler suggests calling your local farmer before visiting to see if berries are ready.

To find a strawberry farm near you, go to http://www.ncfarmfresh.com or contact Lifsey at (919) 707-3127 for a copy of the 2011 Strawberry Directory.