The early warm weather has brought on an unprecedented early berry season, with strawberries ripening the earliest Langley farmers can remember and raspberries ready for picking this weekend.
“It’s the earliest season we’ve seen in 42 years of being here,” said Alf and Sandee Krause, owners of Krause Berry Farms on 248 Street.
“Last year, strawberries were about four weeks early, this year they are five.
“We have two seasons for our strawberries and we are already more than half way through our first crop.
“Raspberries are already in full swing and blueberries will be coming in two to three weeks,” said Alf.
And the strawberries this year are extra sweet and juicy, he added.
“Last year, the strawberries were a bit stressed and this year, they came out big and happy,” he said.
Their corn stalks are already three feet high and will be ready for the July harvest.
There is only 10 days left to pick this crop of strawberries.
The next strawberries come in July, and being everbearing variety, can be picked until Thanksgiving.
Alf said they are starting to look at planning for an earlier season as the norm.
“Our normal has changed. I think we have to start looking at five-year averages instead of a 20-year,” he said.
Krause Berry Farms employs around 200 people, 70 per cent of those are students. With that in mind, it is a bit of a challenge when the berries ripen before school is out for the year, said Sandee.
The Krauses planted their first one-acre plot of berries in 1974. Now, they have turned their U-Pick berry farm into a family destination, with a porch restaurant serving old fashioned strawberry milkshakes and waffles and offering picnics in their chuckwagons, which are near the huge playground and sandbox.
Adults can saddle up in their cowboy-themed winery with tastings of their award-winning wines served in a glass boot. The market and bakery is where people come for their mile high strawberry pies and flats of ready-to-go berries. There is live music on the weekends and Thursday nights they are open late, allowing people to pick berries, have dinner, and take in some line dancing.
“Families love to come here, and we really love having them. We really wanted to make sure they were making their best memories here,” said Sandee.
With six kids and three grandkids, the Krauses like to put kids first in the experience on the farm.
“Everything we do here at the farm, we do so each person comes away with their own food experience,” she said. “From the U-pick to the open window, open air concept where you can see our bakers making pie or you can sit in our garden and enjoy a cup of our famous veggie chili, it’s a food experience.”
Alf and Sandee recently added some new attractions around the farm. This month, they opened their Fresh Family Fun Field — a future farmers educational centre — where kids can bounce on giant berry and pumpkin jumping pads, try challenging farm games and test their driving skills riding John Deere pedal carts on a track while learning about safe driving.
Another new concept at the farm is a protegé garden.
“The garden is designed very much like a French protegé garden with seasonal vegetables. People can go online and sign up to get a farm box every second Friday.
“Inside the box will be veggies, berries, sometimes a baked pie, preserves, a fresh loaf of bread and other surprises,” she said. People can items to their farm box when ordering online.
During the holidays, there would be pumpkin pie, squashes and a turkey with trimmings.
Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery is located at 6179 248 St. and is open seven days a week.
Another longtime U-Pick berry farm in Langley is Driediger Farms Market, located at 23823 72 Ave.
Their fresh strawberries are also available now, along with Sweet Thea homemade pies, jams, jellies, honey, ice-cream, eggs, cheese, meats, bread and more. Driediger berries can also be purchased frozen at the farm gate shop.
The market is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Their annual Summer Festival takes place June 12.