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Sweet Berry Farm takes steps to protect crops

Strawberry plants

iStock image

Sweet Berry Farm staff snapped into action to keep its berries and blooms safe the week before a winter storm hit the Highland Lakes with below-freezing temperatures and snow.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 17, at least 6 inches of snow have blanketed the Marble Falls pick-your-own fruit attraction.

“We have large frost covers that we put out over the strawberries to protect the plants and blooms,” said Lacy Copeland Garcia, one of the Copeland family members who own the farm. “Tulips are cold-hardy plants, but we did cover them with hay to prevent significant damage to the blooms inside the plant.”

She noted staff took one additional step: They opted to double cover most of the plants “to save as much as possible” because of the extreme low temperatures and the number of days the Highland Lakes was to remain below freezing.

Garcia said staff relied on multiple sources of data to determine the best course of action. Top of the list is her dad, Dan Copeland, who started the farm more than two decades ago.

“Cold weather happens pretty much every year at this time,” she said. “Having a freeze is not unusual, so we did what we always do: cover the berries up. Of course, Dad has the most experience and knowledge, and last week, we were in constant communication about what to do, when to do it, and which weather app was forecasting the most accurate temperatures so we could prepare.”

This is the second major freeze in a month for the region, but Garcia said the January temperatures did not get low enough to affect the plants. Even then, staff placed frost covers on the plants, though no one was complaining about the snow.

“Snow is a good thing,” she said. “It creates a natural frost cover, and if it snows, we don’t have to worry so much. What happened in January didn’t help and it didn’t hurt either. We usually only cover the plants when we have viable blooms. The covers are mainly to protect blooms. The plants themselves can withstand very cold temps.”

In January, before these highly unusual winter storms, Sweet Berry Farm was anticipating opening in early March with the normal amount of strawberries — at least two berries per bloom-producing plant, which is usual for the beginning of season. 

Now, like the rest of the Highland Lakes — the farm is waiting for the snow and ice to melt and temperatures to rise for its next steps.

“We won’t know anything until we can open up the covers when the nightly temps are forecasted above 36 degrees,” Garcia said.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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