This year, Mother Nature was berry, berry good to Robin and John Tebbs.
The owners of Tebbs Farms and Greenhouses, 1620 Four Mile Drive, said they just came off of their best strawberry season ever and they have an early spring to thank for that.
"Strawberries started May 22. That's the earliest I ever remember them starting," said Robin Tebbs, who recently was tending the family's Four Mile Drive produce stand with employees Ashley Reidy and Olivia Dabney. "Then, we had a nice four-week season. That's a good, long season for strawberries."
Ashley Reidy, right, and Olivia Dabney, both employees of Tebbs Farms and Greenhouse, prepare fresh strawberries for sale at the Four Mile Drive produce stand.
"We had an excellent season," said Reidy, who has worked for the Tebbs for 14 years. "It was the earliest starting season and the longest. The yield was really good, too."
The Williamsport area just experienced one of the warmest springs on record, with average high temperatures near 71 degrees and average low temperatures near 50 degrees, according to Charles Ross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College. Those temperatures rank seventh and third highest, respectively, since the late 1890s when recordkeeping for this area began, Ross said.
At the same time, rainfall was "just a tad bit below average," Ross said, adding: "We were so wet from last year, the soil still had a lot of moisture in it."
"The warm weather really got the growing season off to a good start," he said.
John Tebbs said sweet corn, which is grown in the Montoursville area and usually is ready around July 4, is almost two weeks ahead of schedule.
"It's earlier than it's ever been for me. We're probably going to have it safely by the beginning of (this) week," he said, adding that he has been involved in farming all his life, including 38 years of working in the family business.
Tebbs said he took a gamble - and won - by planting corn early. There was little or no frost to speak of on his fields, though that was not the case for all local farmers, he said.
"There was frost on some fields. It just depended on where you were," he said.
The family's berry fields, which are in Nisbet, saw some frost, but John Tebbs took valiant measures to ensure the strawberry plants were unharmed by watering them, usually late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, Reidy said.
Tebbs dismissed any talk of personal valor. Taking measures to avoid frost damage on berry plants is part of his spring routine, he said.
"John spent many sleepless nights keeping frost off the strawberries," Robin Tebbs said.
While Tebbs was willing to gamble with sweet corn, he was not willing to gamble on other crops, such as cantaloupe, peppers, green beans and tomatoes. Those crops were planted after the danger of frost had passed and will be ready when they typically are.
"Sweet corn I will take a chance on because that's something you can replant," he said.
Richard Snyder, who works his Fairfield Township farm with his son Scott, said an early spell of warm, dry weather allowed him to plant his sweet corn early, too.
However, the farm, which is along Route 87 just north of Montoursville, experienced just enough frost to set his harvest schedule back to its normal time, which is between July 8 and July 10.
"The early season allowed us to get started early," Snyder said. "It allowed us to get our prepping and planting done."
"We had a couple late frosts at the end of April," Scott Snyder said. "That kind of stunted it and set it back a week."
The fact that Snyder will even have sweet corn this year may come as a surprise to some people, Richard Snyder said. That is due to a rumor that last September's flooding ruined his corn fields.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, though a 3-foot layer of silted sand had to be removed from a section of field where the farm's autumn corn maze is, he said.
Due to concerns about the fertility of the remaining soil on that field, oats were planted instead of corn, he said.
"It's looking pretty good," Snyder said of the oats, which is the first such crop Snyder has planted in about 50 years. "We'll be harvesting it in about three weeks. It's normal to above average."
The maze will be back, Snyder said. After the oats are harvested, sorghum will be planted on the field for the purpose of creating the maze, he said.
Linda Shirey, of Berried Treasures, 35 River Road, Linden, said the farm and roadside stand she operates with her husband Tom and son Seth would have had a bumper crop of strawberries this year. The only problem was the wet weather last year prevented much of the land set aside for that crop from being planted, she said.
The Shireys were able to get sweet corn in early this year, though you-pick crops such as tomatoes, green beans and peppers were planted late, mainly due to a spell of wet weather that inhibited access to the farm's low-lying fields.
"Those things will be a little later than normal," she said. "We're looking at August."
The stand also will have cucumbers and eggplant during the summer, and pumpkins and squash in the fall.