News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 1, 2014

Going to strawberry fields

Orchards in Wabash Valley ripe for pickers to fill their baskets

ROSEDALE — Judy and Denny Green enjoy the taste of fresh strawberries, so much so they picked their own Sunday afternoon at Ditzler Orchard’s Cherrywood Farm in Parke County.

“They are fresh when you pick them and you know what you are getting,” said Judy Green as she sat on a small stool she brought. Denny used a small plastic bucket and poured his strawberries into a cardboard flat, which would be weighed to determine the price of the strawberries.

The Greens, who live west of Clinton, picked one flat of berries.

“We were going to pick two [flats] but decided one is enough,” Judy Green chuckled. “We’re just getting kinda old.”

The couple plan to use the strawberries to make “freezer jam” with most of the berries, plus a pie.

“We will be back in a week or so to get some more,” she said.

“Yeah, once our backs straighten out a little,” Denny Green said with a smile.

The two are veterans at picking strawberries, something they have been doing for two decades.

“Their strawberry patches here are always clean, which makes it nice,” Judy Green said. “You can taste the berries before you pick, because they have different varieties. So they can help you find which ones you like. It is a good place, and it’s just more fun when you do it yourself.”

Judi Ditzler, an owner of the orchard, said the early crop of strawberries did not get pollinated well; however, bigger varieties of strawberries have and are doing well.

“We have a lot of strawberries coming on,” Ditzler said. “They are late, but they are coming on strong.

“It looks like a well-balanced year. Every year is different. We did get dime-size hail last week for five minutes here, so it damaged the early strawberries, so that slowed us down more because we couldn’t open up until we go that cleared up,” she said.

The ripe strawberries now in bloom “are June bearers, and this year they will be true to their name,” Ditzler said.

Strawberries grow in all 50 states, and the U.S. is the largest commercial producer of strawberries worldwide, growing 20 to 30 percent of the world’s annual production, according to Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

Ditzler’s orchard has 12 varieties of strawberries on about six acres where people can pick their strawberries. Already-picked strawberries can also be obtained at nearby Ditzler Orchard. Picking is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday until 2 p.m.

Picking the berries costs $2 per pound if less than 10 pounds is picked. The cost is $1.80 per pound if more than 10 pounds is picked. Generally, a flat of strawberries is $20 to $24, Ditzler said.

It takes on average a half an hour to fill a flat, which is six quarts. “Some people take their time and enjoy being outside and pick for an hour or so,” she said.

Ditzler said that while berry production can last six weeks, the season usually lasts five weeks “because something happens, such as the frost takes out the early varieties or it gets so hot and wet that the late ones go too fast. The weather is the determining factor on how long the season will be,”

she said.

Ditlzer Orchard has about six acres of strawberries that are covered over with straw to help the plants during the winter. That straw is then removed and placed in the rows between the plants to keep weeds down, and “it keeps the berries clean, so they are not lying on dirt, but a nice clean bed of straw. So the straw if very important,” Ditzler said.

Ashley Richey and friend Ashley Goodwin, both of Terre Haute, took five children to the orchard to pick on Sunday.

“We thought we would bring them out for the day to let them all pick strawberries. My son is all excited about our garden we have at home and calls it our farm — in fact, in our backyard,” Richey said of son, Max, who is 4. “So he was really excited about picking strawberries.”

“They are already talking about wanting to do apples and pumpkins in the fall,” Richey added.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or

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