It’s strawberry season and East Tennessee farms are opening up for the public to come pick the crop. However, with an unusually cold spring, East Tennessee businesses said it is making it difficult to grow strawberries.
Rutherford’s Farm in Maryville opened to the public for the season two weeks ago. The owner, Steve Rutherford, has been running this farm for more than 40 years. In all that time though, he and his coworker Sheryl Stiebeling have never seen weather like this before.
“Our income has gone down about a quarter of what it normally should be,” Stiebeling said.
She said a warm day will bring production up but a cold snap dramatically brings it down. Peak season typically starts within three to seven days after opening day. Last Monday, they only picked 150 gallons of strawberries. On Friday, they picked 400 gallons. During peak season, they should be picking 450 to 600 gallons of strawberries per day.
“There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to control Mother Nature,” she said.
It also makes it difficult to predict how many will be available. They get about 50 phone calls a day from anxious customers.
“All you can really do is hope and pray things will turn around and go your way and it looks like it is going to happen because the weather seems to be getting more under control,” Stiebeling said.
They believe by Mother’s Day things will be on the upswing. Rain this year also made it difficult for them to plant other crops. Rutherford’s Farm though expects to have broccoli and cauliflower with the next few days.
If you have any questions about pre-pick orders or hours, you can call Rutherford’s Farm at 865 518 1311.