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Hand Melon farm strawberries

Strawberries from Hand Melon Farm in Easton, picked on Saturday.

I wrote an article 10 days ago about the local strawberry crop, and how it was late to arrive. In it was some information about how our region has had a number of strawberry growers give up the crop in recent years. At least three stopped growing over the past few years.

I called the folks at Strawberry Ridge in Granville for the article, but didn't get a call back. That was strange, as they have usually been cooperative, particularly when a mention in an article is essentially a free advertisement.

My family headed out there June 21 to pick berries, and found a big crowd but just one weedy, picked over field where there were some strawberries. We were able to get a few quarts, and as we checked out heard the cashier telling a customer ahead of us that this was the farm's last year doing strawberries. She said it hadn't been "profitable enough." (Clarification -- I then personally spoke with her and asked her more about this development when we cashed out.)

I followed up with a phone call to the farm last week, but didn't get a return call this time, either. So whether the cashier's remarks are true remain to be seen. Having seen that there were no strawberries in any other field, it seemed to make sense. (The farm also grows raspberries and blueberries.)

The Liebig family's departure from the you-pick strawberry business leaves just Hand Melon Farm in Easton and Ariel's Farm in Wilton in Washington and northern Saratoga counties, from what I can tell.

Laura McDermott, a fruit and vegetable specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension, said that strawberries are very labor-intensive, and growers have seen a change in trends among those who pick them. The days where people loaded up to make jams, pies and other goodies seemed to be on the downturn, with younger pickers favoring a few quarts instead.

We still have a couple of options for the rest of this season, thankfully I went down to Hand Melon on Saturday, and found the business' huge field loaded with six varieties of berries. The staff estimated they would have good picking for at least another two weeks.

-- Don Lehman

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime, Warren County government and the outdoors for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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