GOSHEN - Strawberries are ripening in the area, but no one knows how long they'll be available.
Several strawberry patches have opened for the season in the past several days, but several growers said they have smaller strawberries than usual or less of them and don't know how long their patches will be open.
"It started late and I'm guessing it's going to be a short season," Allen Bontrager of Green Meadow Farms in Middlebury said.
Bontrager was selling pints and quarts of the berries Tuesday afternoon at the Goshen Farmers Market and said that his berries are smaller than usual.
"I know this - if people want strawberries, they better get them soon," he said.
Local farmers agreed that the strawberry season usually lasts through June, but this year, there are no guarantees.
Dale L. Yoder of Yoder's U-Pick in Goshen said that, though it all depends on the weather, they would have berries for at least one more week, but was hesitant to make predictions beyond that.
This was the first year Star Calkins of Nappanee had to seek out a berry patch. She usually picked from her mother's strawberry plants, but moved from her home in Auburn to Nappanee in March.
Calkins left Calvin Schlabach's strawberry patch in Middlebury with 30 pounds of the red berries. She plans to use most of that for jam.
Schlabach said that his strawberries were ripening later than usual, but that he thought he would have a good crop overall, especially when they reach their peak, which he predicted to be next week.
Barbara Martin of Martin's U-Pick Strawberries near Wakarusa also said their strawberries seemed to be doing just fine.
"They're beautiful," she said. "Everything looks like it's in our favor for once."
Most growers, though, said they were not seeing the strawberry turnout they usually do.
Jeff Burbrink, extension educator from the Purdue Extension Office of Elkhart County, said that the weather through the past year has impacted all perennial plants.
"Going into the fall the way we did, it was so dry, it really does hurt plants," he said. The very wet and cool spring the area had this year isn't good for fruiting or flowering plants either, he said.
Fritz Miller of Fish Lake Organic Berry Patch said that the recent high heat was also hurting the berries.
"This is not strawberry weather," he said. "The wetness made them mushy and the good ones that are there are drying up."
Miller said he planned to begin watering his raspberries immediately, so that they don't follow the pattern of the strawberries.
"This is going to be the shortest (strawberry season) I've ever had," he said.
The closure of a major berry patch will mean many people have to look elsewhere for fresh local berries.
According to an article by the South Bend Tribune, Hilltop Farms in Mishawaka will no longer offer strawberries, though they still sell some other produce through summer produce stands.
There may be a limited supply of berries in the area, but Jay Ulrich of Goshen was very happy with the number he found at Yoder's U-Pick berry patch.
The patch was heavily picked over Monday morning, but Ulrich said he found plenty of beautiful strawberries and left with 16 pounds for eating fresh and preserving.
As he left the patch with his bounty, Ulrich joked about his morning experience, "It was berry good."
Where to buy strawberries
There are several places to buy local strawberries, both to pick yourself or to buy already in a container and ready to go.
* Goshen Farmers Market
212 W. Washington St., Goshen
Multiple farmers are offering strawberries?
* L&M Produce
63329 C.R. 15, Goshen
Open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
$3.75 for a pre-picked quart, $3.25 per quart if purchased by the flat (eight quarts), though prices will decrease by the peak of the season
* Martin's U-Pick
66227 C.R. 9, between S.R. 119 and C.R. 40, near Wakarusa
Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
$1.25 per pound that you pick
* Calvin Schlabach's U-Pick Patch
58810 C.R. 35, Middlebury
$.90 per pound that you pick
*Shirk's Produce Stand
Corner of C.R. 32 and C.R. 13, Goshen
$3.50 per pre-picked quart
* Yoder's U-Pick
On 15th Street in Goshen, south of College Avenue
Closed today, but usually open every day at 7 a.m.
$1.25 per pound that you pick; $3 for pre-picked quarts and $23 for pre-picked flats (eight quarts)
* Zimmerman's Strawberries
26766 C.R. 40, past the intersection with C.R. 9, near Wakarusa
Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m.
U-pick strawberries are $1.10 if you bring your own containers, $1.16 if you use theirs; Pre-picked berries are $3.50 per quart or $24 a flat (eight quarts)
* Bullard's Farm Market
5220 Middlebury St., Elkhart, on the corner of Middlebury Street and C.R. 17
Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$3.75 per pre-picked quart, $26 per pre-picked flat (eight quarts)
(Editor's note - Bullard's was not included in the initial version of this story.)