Drought conditions cut strawberry picking season short in Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Drought conditions in Iowa have cut the strawberry picking season short, impacting a local business in Urbandale.

Bryan Etchen, the owner of Iowa Orchard in Urbandale, says he was excited to see the rain Sunday morning.

“I was up at 5:00 in the morning to watch, and I haven’t been able to go to sleep because I’m so excited,” Etchen said. “It just elates me to know that God is blessing us with a big rain because we were desperate.”

Etchen owns a nine-acre strawberry acreage. He says the lack of rain has impacted growth.

“As far as the drought goes, that can affect fruit size, but now fruit shape really,” said Etchen.

The little rainfall has cut the strawberry season short. Etchen says strawberry season typically lasts about three weeks, but a freeze earlier in the season plus the recent drought reduced the strawberry picking season to almost two weeks.

“The first problem was the hard freeze we had. I think it was early May, and it got down to 23 degrees, so most strawberry growers lost about 50% to 70% of their flowers. So fruit size is definitely smaller this year just because of the drought,” Etchen said.

While weather conditions have not been ideal for the season, Etchen believes it has not severely impacted his business because of changes he made in 2020.

“Last year, because of COVID, we were overrun by a thousand cars a day. So this year we went to an appointment system with a reduced crop, and it worked out magnificently,” said Etchen. “People pick their berries, they go up, they have our strawberry cider slushies and our apple cider donuts and they’re tickled pink, and we’re having a great season for the lack of fruit that we started with.”

Since the strawberry season is coming to an end, Etchen recommends that visitors make appointments online.

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