In the United States, 91% of all strawberries produced come from Florida and California (source: Agricultural Marketing resource center AgMRC). For someone living in Montana, this means there’s a good chance their strawberries traveled far to get to them. This is true in many places around the world. Germany, for example, imports approximately 100,000 tons every year, mostly from Egypt. These food miles are costly for the environment, and in an effort to keep the planet green we should try to reduce our carbon footprint by considering the origin of our purchases.
The main disadvantage of long distance import has to do with the diminished quality of the product. Strawberries are the yummiest when they are ripe. In order to be able to travel thousands of miles, they need to be harvested before they are ripe and processed. Therefore their taste, flavor, smell, look are compromised.
Is there a way to avoid this? Yes, GROW THEM!
The market is such that strawberries are one of the most valuable fruits to grow. Off season, they are almost impossible to find and if you are lucky finding them, they are very expensive. In season, they are more readily available but still relatively expensive.
Advantages to growing your own strawberries
There are many advantages to growing strawberries in a controlled environment, such as greenhouses. Some advantages include:
- Accessibility to the off-season strawberry market (in which they have higher value)
- Year-round operation (if you install additional equipment such as artificial lighting, heating, cooling etc.)
- Better control of substrate and nutrients levels through hydropony
- Can be harvested at the optimal time (better taste) Consistent quality, which increases the value
- Very high quality, which increases their worth and therefore cost
- Protected from outside risks: birds, hail, etc.
Technically speaking, strawberries are not the easiest crop to grow. Pollination is a necessary process for this fruit to thrive. This is usually achieved by honeybees or bumblebees. This adds another layer of complexity and can be very challenging, especially in a greenhouse.
Harvesting the fruits at the perfect time to ensure the right sugar content is also crucial and challenging.
There are, however, overlooked advantages of growing strawberries in a controlled environment, such as a greenhouse, compared with other crops.
First, the night time target temperature is one of the lowest for the most commonly grown fruits and vegetables, making it relatively cheap in terms of heating cost. In addition, this crop requires a middle level of artificial lighting (higher than lettuce and leafy greens, but lower than tomatoes).
If you are considering investing in a greenhouse, you should definitely consider growing strawberries!