It’s a berry short year

Three-year-old Tabitha Brown samples a strawberry at Dugualla Bay Farms on Wednesday.  - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Three-year-old Tabitha Brown samples a strawberry at Dugualla Bay Farms on Wednesday.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

After weeks of anxious anticipation, Oak Harbor resident Kristyn Brown’s patience finally paid off. The objects of her affection stayed out of the public’s eye, taking advantage of the late-June sun. Now, after soaking up some much-needed rays, they’re ready to make their island debut.

On Wednesday, Brown scurried to check out the visitors, armed with a basket and her three young daughters. She wasn’t disappointed with what she saw. The strawberries were finally there.

This year, Whidbey’s strawberry season started much later than usual. While Dugualla Bay Farms on North Whidbey was able to open for U-picking just two weeks late on June 29, Bell’s Farm near Coupeville waited until Friday to allow berry hunters in its bushes.

“It’s going to be a short season,” Bell’s Farm owner Jerry Bell said. “We’ve got water damage and winter damage, and we had that early, wet spring.”

Bell’s Farm has four acres open for picking, but Bell said the berries vary in ripeness throughout the plot.

“It’s looking good in some places and not so good in other places but that’s just the way it goes,” he said.

Further north at Dugualla Bay, farm manager Shari Meagher said the berries are as delicious as ever, but won’t be around much longer. She said strawberry season ends in mid-July whether the berries ripened on time or not.

“We’ve been busy,” she said.

Dugualla Bay also has about four acres of rows for U-pickers to comb through, but Meagher said next year, the farm hopes to have an additional six.

Brown definitely seemed satisfied with her trip to the farm. She said she lives on Jones Road and had been driving by Dugualla Bay for weeks just waiting for that open sign to be placed along Highway 20.

“The strawberries are really good, really sweet,” she said. “There are a few green ones, but hopefully that just means they’ll last longer.”

Oak Harbor artist Barbara Marks and her daughter Sophie also enjoyed some successful gathering.

Marks said she prefers U-picking because it’s cheaper than buying berries from the stores and provides an opportunity to make some memories.

“It’s a fun thing to do with the kids,” she said. “I’m going to turn these into jams and jellies and send some in a care package to my older child in Washington, D.C.”

Dugualla Bay is open to U-pickers from 9 a.m. to just before 6 p.m. seven days a week, and stays open an hour later on Friday and Saturday for people who want some ice cream later in the evening. The farm provides baskets for pickers and charges $1.59 per pound, but also sells berries and other fruits and vegetables at the farm stand.

Bell’s Farm is open for picking every day but Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. People can gather berries for just $1.35 per pound. The luscious fruit is also available for purchase at the farm, in local markets and at a stand near Burger King and 7-Eleven in Oak Harbor.

Where to pick

Bell’s Farm is located at 892 W. Beach Road, Coupeville. Call 678-4808 for details.

Dugualla Bay Farms is located at 36699 Highway 20, Oak Harbor. Call 679-2192 for details.



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