Warm weather worries Guilford County farmers

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- When you are a farmer, you expect the unexpected.

"As far as farming goes, we're always competing against the weather," says James Keenan, co-owner of Bernie's Berries in Greensboro.

But sometimes even the seasoned experts like Keenan and his wife Bernie are thrown for a loop.

The couple was shocked on Saturday when they pulled back the covers on their 105,000 strawberry plants and found not just blooms, but ripe strawberries.

"All these blooms that you see out here if we save them, 30 days from now there will be ripe strawberries, nobody picks ripe strawberries the 20th of March, it's just unheard of," Keenan said.

The family picked about five pounds of ripe berries, and they tasted good, but they say it's the wrong time for berries to be ripe. Keenan says last year they picked ripe berries on April 11 and that was the earliest they had ever done it.

"We'll just have to wait and see, if it stays warm, we'll be all right -- chances are that's not going to happen," he said.

Keenan uses fabric covers to keep the berries warm during their dormant stage. The covers will increase the temperature about five to six degrees.

"We've got covers laid back so that we can cover them back up if it does turn cold, but if it gets severely cold, below 24 degrees, we probably can't save them," he said.

Keenan says even if it does stay warm, and the berries ripen in the next 20 days, his family's business will run into another problem.

"The public is not acclimated for strawberries in the middle of March, they think strawberries come in the first of May to the first of June," he said.