Strawberry Crisis! U-Pick Season Is Almost Over

If you’ve got U-Pick in your summer plans, the time to go is today, as farms struggle with a short season.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton June 21, 2023

Strawberry season—typically later-May through early July, with a sweet spot in the middle, depending on the variety—is a treasured time in Oregon's culinary calendar, as people descend upon fields and farmers markets for the vaunted Hood strawberry and other varietals. But not this year. Strawberry season already ended at some farms, and is on its last days at others.

The cause: the sudden transition from a cold spring to an unusually hot, dry May. “On a normal year we would get three good weekends of strawberry picking. This year, we got one and a half,” says Megan Hallstone of Sauvie Island’s Columbia Farms, which offers pre-picked and U-Pick berries.

The warm May weather halted the growth of strawberry blossoms, the precursor to berries. With far fewer blossoms than normal, berry yields were low; the strawberries were also petite—though still, farms insist, delicious.

Translation: if you haven’t gone strawberry picking yet, this weekend might be your last chance, with some luck. Lee Farms, among others, ended their season last week.

The still-open farms offer small berries, and not many of them. “Right now, the fields are open,” says Hallstone. “But if they’re open this weekend, customers will definitely have to work hard for those strawberries.”

The exact length of farmers’ strawberry seasons this year depends on the types of strawberries planted. Kat Topaz of Topaz Farms on Sauvie Island planted only Hoods and Shuksans, which bloom once a year, in June. For her, strawberry season is over, full stop. “[In previous years] I did Mary’s Peaks, Albion, and Seascape, but everyone only wanted the Hoods and Shuksans,” says Topaz. “But now, after this, I have to diversify. The truth is, they’re all good—they’re Oregon berries.”

Meanwhile, Hoffman Farms in Beaverton expects its strawberry season to continue later into summer, albeit in much lower numbers than usual. “We have an ever-bearing strawberry called the Albion, and that one is showing promise for continued production through the summer,” says co-owner Kelly Hoffman.

Berry season as a whole is still alive and kicking. Raspberries are now open for U-Pick at Columbia Farms and Hoffman Farms; Topaz Farms expects its raspberry season to open in about a week.