Bare Market

A harbinger of summer is delayed by crappy weather.

"Hang in there, guys," is all the answer Arlington's Biringer Farms can give callers looking for information on the farm's regular June staple crop: strawberries. Record low temperatures, heavy rains, and few sunny days have left local berry farmers literally out in the cold. To wit, the region's berry crop is already weeks late, and most farms can't open for business as usual until it arrives."We're sort of crossing our fingers for some real sunshine soon," says Janet Stocker of Snohomish-based Stocker Farms, where the strawberries are still green. Usually by now they are not only red, but ready for serving with whipped cream and sponge cake. "We're already worried. There's always the possibility the fruit will rot on the vine with the cold and the wet."The recent sunshine should be encouraging for Stocker and her fellow farmers, but they know as well as anyone that Northwest weather is a meteorological acid trip. Dues Berry Farm in Marysville, where the weeklong 77th annual Strawberry Festival kicked off last weekend in a blaze of irony, says their berries need at least four more days of good sunshine before they will be ready. Festival organizers are currently making do with berries grown in states with more clement weather.Seattle farmers markets are also singing the blues, says Karen Kerschner of Seattle's Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, as markets scheduled for this past weekend saw many berry farmers cancel at the last minute. "This has been hard on everyone," she says. "Vendors aren't generating needed revenue from these products, markets aren't able to satisfy the desires of customers, and shoppers aren't finding what they've been accustomed to finding at this time of year."With most forecasts predicting a return to gloom starting around Wednesday, those averse to swear words might want to keep out of rural areas as June drizzles onward. No wonder, too—with berry farming there can be no Plan B."If it doesn't work out," says Maria Breneman of Kent's T&M Berries, "then we're stuck."

 
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