North Carolina strawberry yields tripleNorth Carolina strawberry yields could be up to three times larger than usual in May.

Thanks in part to a late start, fruit that normally would be spread out is coming off at once, Barclay Poling, executive director of the Raleigh-based North Carolina Strawberry Association, said in a news release.

“It’s shaping up to be a great crop, but it is posing major challenges for our state’s farmers,” Poling said. “The plants are absolutely loaded with fruit, and what we’re beginning to see in the eastern part of the state, where the season starts first, is that the berries are ripening all at once rather than gradually over a period of time.”

By mid-May, North Carolina growers could be producing 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of strawberries per acre per week, up from a normal yield for that time of year of 2,000 pounds per acre, Poling said.

To help move all that fruit, the association is sponsoring a promotion, “Short & Sweet Strawberry Share 2014,” in which growers are giving pick-your-own customers four buckets of strawberries for the price of three, and encouraging them to give the free bucket to a local food pantry, soup kitchen, daycare center, nursing home or other place or person of need.

“In a normal year, we couldn’t afford to give berries away but we’re going to lose berries,” Mitchell Wrenn, the association’s president, said in the release. “I’d rather give to someone in need, someone who is handicapped or in a nursing home, so they can enjoy these delicious berries. They just don’t compare to the ones you find in the grocery store. They have so much more flavor.”

Cooler temperatures have produced especially sweet fruit this season, Poling said.