Berkeley Hort has been selling bare-root strawberries for many years now. Shortly after being hired in 2005, I was given the opportunity to order our bareroot strawberry plants. In winter, there is usually a good selection of different varieties, and in bare root form they are much less expensive than when potted-up and fully grown in spring and summer. I was surprised to find out that, unfortunately, there were no sources for organically grown bareroot strawberry starts available for us to offer to customers. All growers were growing them conventionally, using fungicides & pesticides to treat the soil for disease and pests. Of course, we can buy organic strawberries from the market from large growers like Driscoll’s but they have patent rights to the berry varieties they sell, prohibiting anyone else from growing them.
After some research, the following year, I was able to find an ORGANIC grower for us! James Rickert had started a certified organic nursery in Macdoel, CA. His goal was to provide commercial growers with a reliable source of certified organic strawberry starts. He was able to take advantage of the large, untreated, acreage of his family’s free-range, grass-fed cattle ranch, Prather Ranch. At the time, they were pricier than conventionally grown bareroot strawberries, but we decided that despite the cost, we had to take the opportunity to offer them organically grown to our customers. When I contacted James the next year, he informed me that due to a low demand from commercial growers, he had to end his venture.
Well, he’s back! Early last year I was searching around again for an organic source, and James’ name popped up. Apparently, in 2016 he partnered with Daniel Nelson to start ION (Innovative Organic Nursery, LLC). Following a few years of research, they’ve successfully created an innovative technique for growing strawberries organically on a scale to supply commercial organic growers & us “little” nurseries! Their methods include Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation, steam sterilization and incorporating beneficial insects and plants on their growing grounds.
As we all know, the demand for organic berries at markets is definitely up, so we are all pulling for Dan & James’ efforts with ION to be a growing success!
We are offering 4 different organically grown bare root strawberries: ‘Albion’, ‘Cabrillo’, ‘Chandler’ and ‘Monterey’. Please check our website for descriptions of these varieties as well as many other yummy fruit choices! Feel free to call or come in for a visit.