Local strawberry crops heavily monitored during severe cold fronts

When the weather starts to get cold, strawberry farmers around the Bay Area are on high alert. 

"It can actually freeze the berry, freeze the fruit. The cold will just turn it into Jell-O.  Like if you leave something in the freezer for too long, it turns to mush basically. It’s no good," said Tres McQuaig, the farm manager at Astin Farms. 

The hundreds of acres of strawberries and asked in farms could be worth millions. But first, those berries need to make it through the cold winter nights as a freeze could wipe the strawberries out. 

"One hard-hit, it could hurt our company tremendously," said McQuaig. "We are counting on this."

When the temperatures dip to freezing, the farmers at Astin Farms spring into action. They have a plan in place to protect their strawberry crop, and it involves spraying the plants with water to coat them in a layer of ice so they can survive the cold temperatures.  

"The water is actually warmer coming out of the wells, it’s just like spring water, so it’s in the 70s. We’re going to pump that out and the cold air is going to make ice," said McQuaig. "As that warm water hits that ice, it’s going to melt it and it’s going to make new ice. It just keeps it held at 32°, and that’s what we want to do. Everything underneath it will be fine."

The holiday weekends saw near-freezing temperatures overnight, with a freeze warning in effect for some parts of the Bay Area. However, luckily for the berries at Astin Farms, they’re looking better than ever. 

"We’re fine, this is great. This is perfect. You want it to get right there at it, and be nice and clear, and not have any issues. It’s just going to make these berries bigger and sweeter," said McQuaig. 

Friday night, the farmers at Astin Farms did not end up needing to spray the plants to protect them. However, they will continue to keep a close eye on the weather throughout the colder months. As of right now, they say they’re on track to finish out with a plentiful strawberry season.