Strawberry lovers should be alert soon for the first Minnesota berries of 2016.  State agriculture officials said the berries are ripening ahead of schedule this year, and many pick-your-own strawberry farms will begin opening in the next week or two. 

Farmers expect a good crop this year, officials said, after a mild winter and adequate moisture in the spring.  Some farms lost early blossoms to a widespread freeze in mid-May, so crop quantities in some locations may be slightly smaller, but quality is expected to be good.

Typically, strawberry availability begins in the south and moves northward 10 to 14 days later. Farms can be found in the Minnesota Grown Directory that lists 76 strawberry farms, 31 blueberry farms, and 40 summer raspberry farms along with farmers markets, orchards and other ways to buy directly from growers.  It is available online at www.minnesotagrown.com.

Local berry farms can vary depending on the varieties planted, soil type and number of customers picking or buying pre-picked fruit.  For that reason, Minnesota Grown spokeswoman Jessica Miles said  it’s important to call a farm before visiting to confirm that it’s open for the season, and to learn its hours of operation and other details.

Early summer temperatures determine how quickly the berries ripen and how long the growing season lasts, but much of the strawberry harvest typically ends around mid-July.

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