There's something missing from area store shelves this March. Local strawberries are not ready for picking.
Farmers were surprised with an extra-long strawberry season last year, thanks to an almost non-existent winter.
This year, winter has been slow to loosen its grip on the Carolinas, and March has been very cold.
"We're not sure what this weather is going to do," said Fort Mill farmer Ron Edwards. "This march has been much colder than we expected."
It was 24 degrees Wednesday morning on Springs Farm. Lows in the 20s are common in March, and that has kept strawberries safely under thick canvass row covers. They're out of the cold, but also out of the sun.
Edwards has kept his 25 acres of berries covered for weeks. The tiny plants are about half the size they should be. A long winter has put the brakes on everything.
"When it's cold like that, the plant just hunkers down, and doesn't do it's normal routine," Edwards said.
Last year, Springs Farm had strawberries at local markets by March 23. It was a real jump start for business. This year, farmers will be lucky to get a crop to market by mid- to late-April.
That's a good bit of money lost thanks to a growing season cut short by long-lasting winter weather.
However, Edwards hopes that he can make it up on the back end of the season in June.
"I'm hoping June will be nice to us, and not so blazing hot," Edwards said.
That way, farmers can stretch the growing season by a few weeks. As long as temperatures don't climb into the 90s, farmers can keep picking berries and still have a profitable season.
So far, Edwards said the peach crop is on target for a very good season.