'They're more tasty': The difference in locally grown strawberries and where to pick 'em
PORTSMOUTH — It's bustling for a Friday morning at Quonset View Farm, and perhaps that's because time is of the essence.
Strawberry picking season opened just three days earlier and, by early July, it'll be over. Ashley Cotta, granddaughter of farm owner Dave Cotta, is working the stand at the front of the farm, directing patrons to the roughly 8½ acres where they can pick their own fruit.
As Dave Cotta talks on the phone, another grandchild, Mike Flynn, unloads crates of strawberries from a John Deere utility vehicle.
Quonset View Farm — which gets its name because you can see Quonset Point in the distance to the west from the elevated spread off Middle Road — was founded by Manuel Cotta in 1902 and remains a family operation.
Customers can pick potatoes and squash, as well as pumpkins in the fall, but strawberry season is a special time of the year because it comes and goes so quickly.
"It's about four weeks, five weeks," Flynn said, who started helping out at the farm during his childhood and earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Rhode Island. "If it gets too dry in July, it's tough to extend the season."
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Strawberry season varies in different parts of the country, depending on the weather. Dave Cotta said it starts in Mexico and works its way north. In Florida, the peak months are January and February. In Virginia, it's May and mostly June for New England states.
Flynn explained farmers work a season ahead when it comes to strawberries. This year's crop was planted last year, and some of the strawberries picked next year recently were planted on about three acres of the farm.
Not surprisingly, good weather — with well-timed rain — makes for a good season, Flynn said. If there's precipitation at night, farmers have less watering to do by hand. If it rains during the day, especially on weekends, customers aren't likely to go strawberry picking.
"You don't want to miss a Saturday or Sunday," he said.
Flynn said there's a "novelty" and a "seasonality" to picking your own fruit.
"Those strawberries that you buy in February, yeah, they might be good from Florida, but once you get something in season, it's kind of a whole different ballgame," Flynn said.
"It's a lot better than just going to the store to get them," Dave Cotta said. "You can see how they grow first-hand. And they're more tasty when they're fresh like that."
Flynn said with the expansion of farmers markets in the area, people want to support local operations. "That's a great thing," he said.
Quonset View Farm, located at 895 Middle Road, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
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Here are some other places in Newport County where you can pick your own strawberries:
Sweet Berry Farm
915 Mitchell's Lane, Middletown
Sweet Berry Farm offers seven types of pick-your-own fruit, including strawberries. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more at sweetberryfarmri.com.
Young Family Farm
260 West Main Road, Little Compton
Strawberry picking at Young Family Farm is by appointment, and you can book your one-hour session online at youngfamilyfarm.com. The hours of operation are Thursday through Monday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Strawberry picking in Portsmouth, Middletown RI offers tasty treats