How Innovation in Strawberry Growing Is Set To Make Our Local Strawberry Season Longer

June 4, 2020

Above: Strawberry fields at Lepp Farms in Abbotsford, BC. These strawberries are available at Lepp Farm Market in season.

Lepp Farms started growing strawberries six years ago when two important things happened. Our son Mike committed to running our farm operations, allowing us to expand and diversify our crops. Subsequently, we purchased acreage on Sumas Prairie. The sandy soil in Sumas is ideal for growing ground crops, as it drains exceptionally well. We knew that local strawberries were always in high demand, and so we began with a few acres of strawberries grown on raised beds. They’re a challenging crop to grow in the rainy Fraser Valley. We started researching practices that would help protect the crop from the rain and extend the growing season.  

Last year Lepp Farms was honoured to receive a grant from Abbotsford Community Foundation to be used towards an innovative agriculture practice. This grant was the motivation we needed to invest in an exciting new project at Lepp Farms. We researched how Eastern Canada and Europe were successfully growing strawberries under tunnels and knew we could use this innovative method here in the Fraser Valley.

Above: New Strawberry Tunnels at Lepp Farms in Abbotsford, BC. These strawberries are available at Lepp Farm Market.

These Strawberry Tunnels allow us to:

1) Increase agricultural productivity.

Strawberries, being a soft fruit, don’t do well in the rainy weather that the Fraser Valley so often experiences. Sheltering them inside of our strawberry tunnels means that we have less food waste from damaged fruit and significantly decreases the need for other interventions.   

2) Increase our farms’ capacity. 

Since tractors don’t need to get through the rows as they would in a field, we’re able to plant the rows in our strawberry tunnels closer together, getting more fruit out of the same footprint. 

3) Extend the strawberry season by providing shelter so that you can enjoy locally grown, Lepp Farm strawberries for a much longer season! This means an earlier start to the season in years to come, and we expect that we will be harvesting through to Thanksgiving. 

4) Raise the berries off of the ground, making it significantly easier for our farm team to pick the berries for the market. 

Other Interesting Points:

1) Since it warms up inside of the tunnels quicker than it does outside, bees don’t come to the tunnels to pollinate as early as the fruit starts flowering. That’s why the tunnels have their very own bees who live there.

2) Strawberry plants produce runners, which, if planted, will grow another strawberry plant. Last year we cut some runners from our fields and used them to plant a portion of the strawberry tunnel project. That means that some of these plants are the “daughter” plants of our “mothers” in our field.

 

Our strawberries are available at Lepp Farm Market in Abbotsford.