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Rain, weeds cause Teen Challenge to cancel Saturday's strawberry festival

Sunday, May 22, 2011

(Photo)
William Yuede of Cape Girardeau, from right, Same Malone of Jackson, Patrick Malone of Jackson, Skyler Sykes of Scott City and Glen Sinclair pick strawberries during the 2009 Mid-America Teen Challenge Strawberry Festival north of Cape Girardeau.
(Elizabeth Dodd)
Heavy rains and even heavier weeds have conspired this spring to create an abysmal crop, prompting Teen Challenge International of Mid-America to scratch its annual strawberry festival.

The festival was scheduled to take place Saturday, but rains in recent months didn't allow the weeds to be sprayed, said Heather Seabaugh, a Teen Challenge executive assistant who organizes the event.

"The weeds just took over," she said Friday. "We usually do spray for the weeds, but the rain would just wash it away. We just aren't going to be able to do it this year."

During normal years, bumper crops would produce as many as 40,000 quarts of strawberries that the organization sells to raise funds for its work with drug and alcohol addicts. This year, the students at Teen Challenge have only been able to pick enough berries for about 100 quarts, she said.

For at least the last 20 years, the strawberry festival has been one of the faith-based organization's biggest fundraisers. Last year, more than 650 people attended the festival at Teen Challenge's farm off County Road 621 near Cape Girardeau.

Seabaugh has been at Teen Challenge for 10 years. She said it never has been canceled in the past.

In 2007, the festival was held even after an April frost damaged about 70 percent of the crop. The following year, the festival was delayed a week to make sure there would enough strawberries.

This year's lack of production will also nix selling the berries at a stand at a local grocery store parking lot, Seabaugh said.

The strawberry festival is more than a fundraiser, however. The daylong event allows the 143 students who are recovering from addiction to interact with members of the community, Seabaugh said.

"It's the one event each year that brought people to our campus," she said. "We're pretty disappointed. It's usually a really fun day."

Executive director James Bolin said the lack of strawberries will mean a loss of between $30,000 to $40,000 and said it is a big hit. But he said they will ask their supporters to consider donating the cost of a flat of strawberries, which is normally about $24.

"Maybe we can have a bumper crop this year without having strawberries," he said "But it won't have any serious long-term effect on the program. Our program is bigger than our strawberries or our strawberry festival. God's our source."

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This is not good news! I was so much looking forward to some of the best berries in the Country. Darn weather!!

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Fri, May 20, 2011, at 3:22 PM

Guess in the 21'st century no one has ever heard of a hoe. Spent a lot of time on the other end of one when I was growing up, didn't have all those new fangled chemicals to kill stuff. Just did it the old fashioned way with hard work.

-- Posted by johnboy25 on Fri, May 20, 2011, at 3:39 PM

I remember growing up around strawberry patches as a youth and the fields would have geese in them

to eat weeds. The geese would not eat the strawberrys but would eat the weeds. Cheap labor and free fertilizer as well. Rain would not bother them, too late for this year I guess.

-- Posted by thecapeduck on Sat, May 21, 2011, at 8:32 AM

"...strawberry fields, forever..."

Thanks John.

-- Posted by Hawker on Sat, May 21, 2011, at 8:51 AM

I figured this was what the end results of the rain would be. This will really hurt them. As much as I will miss the wonderful strawberries, I know they will miss the income.

-- Posted by LiveAnotherDay on Sat, May 21, 2011, at 3:01 PM

I got tired in standing in line at the TC booth for an hour and get up to purchase and the line closed down. Now I drive over to the farms between Anna and Carbondale. Haven't been there this year, bit I'm interested if they have the weed problem too.

-- Posted by Yankee Station on Sun, May 22, 2011, at 9:30 AM

Go to Berry World at Benton they have great strawberries on sale now home grown in the sand.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Sun, May 22, 2011, at 10:39 AM


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