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      Berry farmer says crops will be ready for picking soon

      Chassell??s Strawberry Festival is just a few weeks away, on July 11 and 12, and local berry farmer, Henry Ohtonen, expects his crops to be ripe for picking soon.

      Despite the long, brutal winter, Ohtonen said the snowfall was good for his crops, and his berries are growing right on track.

      ??As soon as the snow melted and we had those warm days, then the strawberries started to bloom, so it??s going to be at the same time,?? he said. ??A little after the Fourth of July, there should be strawberries to pick.??

      Ohtonen always supplies the Chassell Strawberry Festival with some of his crops for making the strawberry shortcakes, but with three fields dedicated to berries this year, he ensures there will be plenty left over for those who enjoy picking berries themselves.

      By the end of the season, which he expects to be in early August, he??ll have sold between 10,000 and 13,000 quarts of strawberries.

      While there is no shortage of berry farms in the area to choose from, Ohtonen touted his location in Chassell is prime for producing big, sweet berries.

      ??We have the lake right next door, so it keeps it cooler, and we don??t get too hot days. Nights are cool, so it helps them and gives them a chance to grow,?? he said. ??In fact, it??s probably better when it??s a little cooler so they won??t be small. They??ll have a chance to grow in size. That??s what you want.??

      So far, his strawberries are just beginning to bud, and he plans to submit a quart of show berries in the Festival like he does every year.

      Though he said he hasn??t checked with other local farmers, at his farm, there will be plenty of strawberries to go around.

      ??There??s going to be lots of strawberries,?? said Ohtonen. ??Nobody??s going to be without.??

      For more information about the 2014 Chassell Strawberry Festival, click here.