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Photos by Kiowa Wieser-Matthews/FOCUS Area strawberry fields opened last week, revealing luscious crops and drawing in hundreds of happy pickers. Pictured are Damon Eide and Somjai Miller, left, and Lisa Eide and Julian Matter, right, of Fergus Falls, at Herzog’s Berries, near Underwood. The short picking season is expected to end early next week.

Berry nice! Cool spring produces a top crop of strawberries

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People are gathering from far and wide at area berry farms for the short but fruitful strawberry season in Otter Tail County.

The harvest began on July 1, and is expected to last into early next week.

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There are two berry farms nearby – Herzog’s Berries, overlooking West Lost Lake in Underwood, and Moll’s Berry Farm south of Ottertail, along Minnesota Highway 78.

At Herzog’s last Wednesday, the berries were plentiful, with more than enough to go around to the crowd of roughly 50 pickers. One berry fan reported picking an entire gallon of strawberries within just a 3-foot span.

“These are the best strawberries I have ever tasted in my entire life,” raved Randy Matthews, a berry fanatic, after trying some Herzog strawberries from this year’s harvest – a bold statement coming from Matthews, who has been actively consuming strawberries for the past 50 years of his life.

Patrick Herzog, owner of Herzog’s Berries, said the high quality of this year’s crop is likely due to the weather. Cool springs typically result in a more bountiful berry crop with larger berries, he said, and this year’s spring was about as cool as they come.

Also because of the odd weather, however, the opening date for berry picking was pushed back by about two weeks at both Moll’s and Herzog’s. And at Moll’s, some berries were still ripening as of late last week.

A post made on the Moll’s website last Friday stated that, “because this is such an unusual weather year, there are still many berries that have not ripened. Several hundred people came and picked all the ripe berries by 10:45 this morning.”

Pickers were able to return to Moll’s on Monday morning, with the assurance that, “there are still many berries to come.”

For those who can’t make it to the fields, or prefer not to pick, there are stands set up in Perham, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes and Fargo, from which Herzog’s strawberries and other products can be purchased.

For more information on Herzog’s, call 739-5483 or visit herzogberries.com. For more on Moll’s, call 367-2656 or visit mollsberryfarm.com.

Kiowa Wieser-Matthews, For the Focus

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