THOUGH IT'S ONLY February, the strawberry season has begun in Southern California. Alas, our strawberry fields, unlike the Beatles', do not last forever. The berries are a high-density crop: a mere one-acre field yields between 3,000 and 4,000 flats (with 12 boxes to a flat) in a four-to-five-month period. But strawberries are a delicate crop, not an easy one to grow. They prefer cool weather to cold, so growers often are up all night overseeing their welfare.
"Strawberries are a lot of work," says Susie Cavion of Cavion Farms in Ontario. "If the weather looks like it's going to freeze, you have to keep your sprinklers on long enough to coat the buds or berries with water. The water might freeze, but the berry won't."
Growers are moving in increasing numbers to Ontario, where there is far more available land for strawberry production than in mega-developed Orange County. But Maya Ishibashi, for one, continues her family's strawberry-growing tradition on land leased from the Torrance Municipal Airport since 1949. Her strawberries are available a bit later than the Ontario berries, about March 1.
Strawberries are available now at Jertberg Strawberries, northeast corner of Mission Boulevard and Oaks Avenue, Ontario , (714) 988-4443; as of March 1 , at Cavion Farms, 1940 S . Mountain Ave . , Ontario , (714) 988-942 5 , and at the Ishibashi Farm Stand, 24955 Crenshaw Blvd . , Torrance , (213) 325-0659.