Strawberry picking season is underway in upstate New York, but farmers are facing challenges with dry conditions throughout most of the state and high input costs.

“We’ve been having to irrigate every day with trick tube irrigation because of the drought,” said Steve Cummins, of Indian Creek Farms in Ithaca.

Strawberry fields at Indian Creek Farm. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

Strawberry plants’ shallow root system and high-fruit production require more water than some other crops, Cummins said. He estimated that running irrigation costs $1,000 per acre for the season.

In addition to irrigation, they have had to invest in labor, plants, frost protection and straw bales.

“I’d roughly say an acre, it’s about $5,000 to establish a bed each year,” he said.

Fertilizer prices spiked in 2022 because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as Russia is a large exporter of fertilizer and disruptions in the supply chain throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the USDA.

“Fertilizer didn’t used to be a major expense for us, but it did double in price during COVID,” Cummins said. 

Cummins said they had to raise their prices this year by 6%.

“We have not had a price increase in four years,” he said.

Visitors at Indian Creek Farm pick strawberries. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum news 1)

Karen Reeves of Reeves Farm in Baldwinsville said another reason u-pickers could see a lower crop is due to the May freeze. 

“If you didn’t do anything to try to mitigate the problems from freeze, most likely their blossoms on the strawberry plants froze and died,” Reeves said. 

Additionally, Reeves calculated that strawberry plants increased in price by 40% this year, which was part of the reason they increased their wholesale price. 

“We’re not really seeing inflation costs come down, whether it comes to labor, fertilizer, plants, pesticides. They have all continued to be very expensive,” she said. 

However, they were able to keep their u-pick prices the same as last year, and Reeves said her advice to people who want to participate is to come as soon as possible. 

“When we open our fields, that means there’s a lot of berries,” she said. “Don’t wait, now is the time because the season is very short.”