Yes, the statistics are impressive. This one county produces about 15 percent of the nation's strawberries and virtually all the berries grown during the winter. The commodity has an impact on our community approaching $200 million. The 16 million flats produced each year, if placed end to end, would extend from Plant City to Seattle and back again. But most impressive is the fact that although production in this strawberry haven has been going strong for over a century, the value of the commodity has more than tripled in the last two decades, and could well double in the next decade. If anything, the community's claim as the "Winter Strawberry Capital of the World" seems stronger. If you make every recipe from our cookbook every year, you will be doing your part to keep it that way!

Many people are surprised to find out that strawberry growers plant bare-root plants rather than seeds. The reason is every strawberry seed contains different genetic material, the product of a myriad of potential gene combinations. Because the genetics of strawberries are so diverse (humans are diploid, strawberries are octoploid), each of our varieties came from a single seed, which was cloned from a single mother plant. The mother plant puts out runners (called daughter plants) that were essentially identical to her, which in turn also put out runners, Last year, we planted over 40 million plants from one variety, each of which was identical to their great, great, great grandmother found to be a good selection maybe ten years earlier. The major varieties of strawberries grown in Florida are Sweet Charlie, Camarosa, and the Oso Grande.

About one-third of the FSGA/FSPS (Florida Strawberry Patent Service, a sister organization to FSGA) revenue is targeted for research. Since inception, the Association has made contributions for IFAS research approaching $1 million dollars. In addition, FSGA has coordinated and leveraged legislative and community support, doubling the Dover Research Center's budget and faculty. The Association is currently spear heading a project that will double the research acreage, providing for another two faculty, six new graduate students, greenhouses, lab facilities and a triplex for visiting students and faculty while conducting research.

For more information behind the science of strawberries, you can contact the Dover Research Strawberry Center at 813-659-2801 or for gardening questions contact your local extension office. In Hillsborough County the number is 813-744-5519.

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