“I’m at a loss for words”: Pitt County farmer loses entire strawberry harvest following hail storm

Strawberry farm ruined just weeks before the end of harvest season
Strawberry farm ruined just weeks before the end of harvest season(Jaylen Holloway)
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 11:42 PM EDT
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PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -What were once bright red strawberries hoping to soon be picked and savored by jolly springtime customers at Strawberries on 903 in Pitt County, are now laying in standing water battered and bruised by hail.

“The crop was about 75% harvested when the storms came, but this 10 or 15-minute storm decimated crops,” said Mike Skinner, Strawberries on 903 Owner. “I’m talking 100% lost.”

The prominent strawberry farm known by many was completely dismantled during Tuesday’s storms that saw large hail fall.

Skinner says he watched as the storm rocked his harvest but didn’t know the aftermath would wipe away a year’s worth of work.

“We didn’t realize how much damage was coming down on us,” Skinner said. “We’re just really disappointed.”

Skinner says the strawberries were on the brink of this year’s harvest season being over, however, loyal customers and workers are left dismayed.

“They’re going to lose a few weeks’ pay because there’s no work for them now,” Skinner said.

Pitt County Agricultural Extension Agent Mitch Smith says it hurts to see such diligent farmers in the area suffering.

“Certainly, that’s a tremendous adjustment those farmers have to make,” Smith said. “As well as the added expense that goes into managing a crop that’s been impacted by hail damage.”

Uncertainty surrounds the future of Skinner’s beloved strawberry farm, however, in the midst of the storm, he somehow remains calm.

“We knew what we signed up for when got in the farming business,” Skinner said. “Have to take the good with the bad.”

Skinner says he doesn’t know when people will be able to visit the farm for their desired strawberries again. However, he does promise that he and his crew will do everything in their power to find a way for this spring and summer not to be a total loss for customers.

Smith says other farmers around the east have also reached out about damage to their crops, but he says officials haven’t been able to fully assess the impact yet.