Strawberries (perhaps it’s obvious) are a popular item to have at your farmers market. Their bright color brings customers to the table. They are highly profitable and easy to sell. Kids love them. Adults love them. So if you have the time and space, every market farmer should grow strawberries. But strawberries are also a brilliant crop to have as part of your community-supported agriculture operation.
Today I’ll list the many reasons we raise strawberries for our CSA and why they are such an important crop as part of subscription farming.
1. Strawberries Help You Get an Early Start
The earlier you can start your CSA, the longer your season can go and the more profitable it will be. However, if you just started your CSA in the early months of spring, your customers would soon bore of the radishes and lettuce. This is why I highly recommend strawberries as a great way to get away with starting your CSA season early—when strawberries are in the mix, all radishes are forgiven.
2. They Help Make Introductions
Strawberries make a great introduction for new CSA members who might be intimidated or overwhelmed by the kohlrabi, kales, radishes and lettuces of the early months. Strawberries are something familiar that no one needs help finding a use for. Keeping people excited and not overwhelmed is sometimes a challenging balance, especially with first-timers, so use strawberries as that buffer.
3. Strawberries Are Their Own Advertising
There are years that we have CSA shares still available by the time we start the season. But when we start giving strawberries, those spots quickly fill up. Any fruit you can give will help to maintain as well as sell the CSA. Also, because many customers seek strawberries at farmers markets, they will sign up for your CSA specifically knowing they will get strawberries. So if nothing else, you can think of strawberries as advertising you can eat.
4. Strawberries Provide Successions
Strawberries might be an early crop, but they can also be a late crop. Depending on the variety you choose, you could have strawberries from early spring until early summer, then again in the late summer. The ever-bearing strawberries that give you a flush in the late spring and again in the mid- to late summer can be a little fickle, and I have yet to find one whose flavor really excites me, but customers do not complain about anything they can eat right out of the CSA or that their children love. So consider planting some of each variety—early, day neutral and ever-bearing. If your CSA customers get tired of them, the farmers market will always be happy to oblige—especially once strawberry season has ended for most of the other farmers.
5. Crop Management Challenges Are Worth It
One issue with strawberries: They can be slow to grow—taking a year in some varieties to start fruiting. Plus small and large pests love them, as do fungi, so for some farmers, growing strawberries can be a challenge. Soil drainage and weed control are critical. If the soil doesn’t drain, the plants will not thrive. Some growers plant their strawberries into plastic and remove them every year to control weeds. Others use mulch for weed suppression and moisture retention. You have options. But plant them somewhere their roots can breathe, and also read over this guide to understanding how strawberries work. It’s not a hard crop in terms of a fruits, but the more you understand, the better this CSA gem will serve you.