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Strawberry season arrives on Whidbey Island

Oak Harbor residents Deanna Brown, 6, and Jillian Beach, 4, hoist a basket of freshly picked strawberries from Dugualla Bay Farm Wednesday, June 23. - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor residents Deanna Brown, 6, and Jillian Beach, 4, hoist a basket of freshly picked strawberries from Dugualla Bay Farm Wednesday, June 23.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

They may have been a week late, but they’re as juicy as ever. The strawberries at Dugualla Bay Farms off Highway 20 on North Whidbey are ripe and ready for picking.

Bob Hulbert, the owner of Dugualla Bay, said he usually expects to see ripened strawberries earlier in June, but the cold and wet weather delayed their arrival. Hulbert feared the fruit would lose some of its signature sweetness due to the lack of sun, but expects a good season now that the weather has turned around.

Hulbert has been farming for 23 years and said he learned the trade working with his father and brother on their beet fields in La Conner. Hulbert runs his farm with help from friend Shari Meagher who’s been in the business 13 years.

The 70-acre Dugualla Bay farm produces raspberries, pumpkins, corn, cherries and tomatoes with three acres dedicated solely to strawberries. According to Hulbert, strawberries bring in about 30 percent of the farm’s profit, but recently he’s noticed fewer people coming out to pick.

“People are getting lazier,” he said, noting that about two-thirds of Dugualla Bay’s strawberries are bought in packages at the stand on site.

However, it’s evident that some families still enjoy the hunt.

Kamie Beach visited Dugualla Bay with her children and said they plan to visit the farm a few times this season to collect berries for smoothies, desserts and snacking.

“It’s a fun summer thing to do with the kids,” she said. “They love it, and their favorite part is the ice cream afterwards.”

Her daughters, Maddie, 7, and Jillian, 4, scurried throughout the rows picking and eating as they went oblivious to the planes flying overhead.

Maddie said strawberries are one of her favorite foods and she prefers them nice and plump.

Oak Harbor resident Wendy Maldonado said she goes to the farm every summer. This year, she took to the field with her young boys who eagerly piled their finds in a big wooden basket.

“They are awesome, so good and there’s tons of them,” she said.

Danny Maldonado, 10, thinks strawberry picking is the best kind of work because at the end of the day people are rewarded with a tasty treat.

Hulbert no longer hires kids to man the fields in the summer unlike his competitor, Coupeville’s Bell’s Farm, which pays 18 cents per gathered pound.

At Dugualla Bay Farms, U-pickers are invited to come collect fruit from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week for $1.19 per pound.

Bell’s Farm, on West Beach Road, is open for picking from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the berries cost $1.25 per pound. Strawberry season ends in mid-July.

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