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What's It Like to Run a Strawberry Farm?

In the third installment of our Faces of Farming series, we speak with Greg France, who grows strawberries with his wife in California. 

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #503
farmer holding bunch of strawberries in field

This week I have the third installment of my special Faces of Farming series, a series of podcasts in which I’m talking with some of the people who have made it their life’s work to feed the rest of us.

Perhaps you have a small backyard garden or work alongside neighbors in a community garden. If you do, you know the joys of growing food. Nothing is more satisfying than turning a patch of dirt and some seeds or seedlings into something you can actually serve your family and friends. And nothing tastes better than a green bean or strawberry that you grew yourself.

But of course, as every gardener knows, there’s always the possibility of heartbreak. A rogue storm wipes out a bed of tender seedlings, insects infest a field, or after waiting an entire season to enjoy the fruits of your labors, squirrels or birds plunder your crop before you can harvest it.

Now, magnify those risks and rewards by a few orders of magnitude and maybe you can begin to imagine what it’s like to run a commercial farming operation, and the enormous task and responsibility professional farmers take on. Although I’ve certainly endured my share of personal gardening disasters, losing a crop never meant that there would be no food on the table.

A hundred years ago, 1 in every 4 Americans was employed in agriculture. Today, it’s just 1 in 50. Most of us really have no idea how the food we eat every day gets to us. So this month, I’m taking the opportunity to introduce you to some of these folks, to learn what their lives and jobs are like and what they put into feeding the rest of us.

Today, I’m talking with Greg France. Greg and his wife are strawberry growers in California. Strawberries, of course, are one of the most popular fruit. And one of the most nutritious as well. They are particularly high in vitamin C—a serving of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange! And like most berries, strawberries are a good source of polyphenols, antioxidants that protect the heart, brain, and cells throughout the body.  

Their perfect balance of sweet and tart also make them surprisingly versatile. Frozen strawberries are terrific in smoothies, as a topping for yogurt or frozen yogurt. And strawberries also make a great addition to green salads. But I can tell you from personal experience, they are not necessarily easy to grow. Fortunately, Greg France has dedicated his life to the care and feeding of this sometimes temperamental little fruit.

A Conversation with Strawberry Farmer Greg France

Nutrition Diva: Greg, tell us about your fields. What's going on in the strawberry fields at this time of year?

GF: Well, we're actually pretty busy. We're in California, in Santa Maria, and we can harvest strawberries 52 weeks out of the year. So we really don't have any down time anymore. We just finished planting what we call our "fall crop" which will be harvested in the springtime and that's usually our main crop. But we're also harvesting our summer crop which is planted in the summer and it harvests during the fall.

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