The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

June 18, 2014

Farm infection a 'double whammy' (with VIDEOS)

LONG GROVE — Less than a week into the picking season, a Long Grove farm has already lost a substantial portion of a strawberry yield to an unconfirmed cause.

Horticulturalists believe the second flush of berries at the Pride of the Wapsi fields may be infected with an inhibitive fungus called “leather rot,” though a specific cause won’t be known for at least 10 more days as the berries are tested. Owner Pat Dierickx — who has run the farm for 11 years — said he has never dealt with this or any other diseases before, but all strawberries infected were immediately pulled from the market. The Dierickx family also has narrowed down their “You Pick” visits in which visitors came to the patch and selected their own fruits fresh from rows of produce.

“I’m being very selective,” Dierickx said.

Video: Not all Wapsi strawberries were infected, says Dierickx. Products leaving the farm are safe to eat.

In addition to growing strawberries, Pride of the Wapsi also farms pumpkins in the fall and sweet corn in the summer. Dierickx said the lower strawberry yield won’t sink his business, though recent problems have made life more difficult.

“This is 30 percent of my business,” he said. “It’s been kind of a double whammy (for the consumer). One, they’re not able to get what they want, but on the same side they realize that we’re not going to get the income and it’s going to be especially hard on us. We try very hard to provide the consumer with a service that they wouldn’t ordinarily get. So this is a double whammy for I think the community as well as us.”

Video: Pride of Wapsi's Pat Dierickx explains his recent woes. Experts believe leather rot has affected his strawberry crop.

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