Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
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PONCHATOULA-When rain drops start falling, and keep falling like today, it usually means another hurdle for strawberry farmers, right behind cold.But for Richie Howes, there's no worry, because his berries this year are in a makeshift green house.
'The whole concept behind it is to maybe offer something a little bit different, to be able to dodge the elements inside the house, stay a little bit warmer in the winter and actually keep the rain off the berries.'
The typical method of growing strawberries in this area is in fields, where they're covered when it's cold and susceptible to disease and fungus when it's too wet.Howes, instead, pots his plants, keeps them off the ground and under a tent of visqueen, which stays open at the bottom for circulation, until it gets too cold.He has an irrigation system, fans for when it gets too humid, and a bee hive for pollination.He says this process requires less chemicals, is more economical and, so far, turning out tasty strawberries, but it hasn't been a simple process to develop.
'You can get to a point where you can do towers where you can do six times as much in house as you can on regular ground,'he said. 'So it has the potential, just learning the do's and don'ts.'
Agricultural experts in the area say they don't believe anyone else has tried this method of strawberry growing and they say a key to have a variety of different berries. Howes has three.
'Just hoping it's going to work out for the future and maybe introduce something, a concept or idea that even if I don't know, someone else can pick up on and make it better, especially the younger farmers,' he said.
And whether this remains an experiment or becomes an industry staple in the area, Howes says he's just fortunate to be able to try.
Howes is a fourth generation Ponchatoula farmer and is also this year's Strawberry Festival king.
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