Onondaga Farm Looks to Community Volunteers to Replant Strawberry Fields

By Waldy Diez BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) – A local U-Pick farm needs to replant its strawberry fields and asks the public to lend a helping hand.

Abbott Farms is inviting adults to help renovate and replant the strawberry fields. This is the first time in the farm’s 145-year history, at its current location, that it is relying on the community to help replant their fields.

“We tell people that we are their community farm, and so we wanted to get more of a sense of that community,” said owner Warren Abbott. “We had a need right now with planting strawberries; it’s a very big task.”

By using community volunteers, Abbott is also looking to cut down on costs because he normally hires a labor crew to replant the fields.

The volunteers will work four-hour shifts from either 8 a.m. to noon or 1 to 5 p.m. In exchange, the farm will reward each crew member with a $35 U-Pick credit good for any of the U-Pick crops in season during the summer or the fall.

Benefits

Not only will the farm save money, but will also grow healthier fruit.

“Doing it by hand is an advantage to us cause we then can avoid having to use herbicides on the strawberries themselves,” Abbott said.

The strawberry plants are covered in plastic; as opposed to machines, volunteers create smaller holes in the plastic by hand. The smaller holes only allow the strawberry roots to grow and not the weeds, which eliminates the use of herbicide.

According to a Baldwinsville resident and worker, it is also important that the roots are in the ground the right way.

“If they’re sticking up a little bit, water can’t get to them, so the plant will probably die,” 16-year-old Joshua Peck said.

During the day, Peck follows what the other workers and volunteers have done, checking the berries’ roots.

Abbott does not know the exact number of volunteers who have signed up because the project is under the direction of farm manager, Michael Blair, who is currently on vacation. However,  Abbott says the planting of the 55,000 strawberry plants is headed in the right direction.

“The sooner you find the good ideas, the more beneficial they are to everyone,” Abbott said. “As of Saturday, Mike was ahead of where he wanted to be.”

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