The N.C. Strawberry Project is a partnership of N.C. State University's Plants for Human Health Institute and Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. This project received support from the Golden LEAF Foundation.
Strawberry season lasts four to six weeks in North Carolina. It begins in the coastal area in early April, in the Piedmont in late April and in the mountains in late May.
While a primary objective is to breed a better N.C. strawberry, the project also consists of an educational objective to build understanding and mutual appreciation between the culinary world, farmers and scientists. It also consists of a marketing outreach campaign to communicate the importance of agricultural research and outreach, and how it contributes economically to North Carolina. The campaign also will share information that every North Carolinian can use such as selection, storage, preservation and preparation tips for strawberries, including JWU strawberry recipes.
N.C. Strawberry Project Summary (Video)
Research – The project will identify strawberry characteristics that culinary professionals, produce buyers and consumers find most desirable and valuable in the fruit. When these traits are identified, work will begin to incorporate them into an N.C. strawberry, bred traditionally, that is specific to the state’s climate conditions.
- Sensory analyses will quantify sensory characteristics of a diverse set of about 20 strawberry breeding lines and currently available cultivars. This information will provide insight on traits such as flavor, color, texture and size. This sensory information will be used to identify selection criteria in the breeding program.
- A Drivers of Consumption study will help gain an understanding of the preferred strawberry traits of three diverse groups: culinary industry representatives, produce buyers and consumers.
Education – The project will introduce JWU faculty and students to agricultural research and outreach in action. A series of lectures and research station tours will increase mutual understanding of the food production, preparation and consumption spectrum.
- The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury and local farms will be used as a “laboratory” to host JWU faculty and student tours and educational sessions. Likewise, agricultural representatives, along with N.C. State Plants for Human Health Institute faculty members and The Produce Lady, will visit classrooms at JWU.
- JWU students will put their expertise to work by creating strawberry recipes that will be showcased in student competitions. They will meet some of the farmers who grow the strawberries used in their creations.
Marketing Outreach – The ultimate beneficiaries of the N.C. Strawberry Project are N.C. citizens. The growth of the N.C. strawberry industry will enhance the state’s economy. We believe that a tastier strawberry that is available for a longer period during the year will appeal to many consumers.
- Project progress, as well as JWU culinary creations using N.C. strawberries, will be shared with the news media and will be featured on N.C. State and JWU websites and on Facebook.
- Chef Mark Allison and The Produce Lady (Brenda Sutton) will share strawberry recipes and information about the project at www.theproducelady.org.
N.C. State University at the N.C. Research Campus
N.C. State at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis is comprised of the Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI), an integrated research team that works to identify and enhance the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, and the N.C. Cooperative Extension outreach of PHHI, which builds partnerships and resources to help North Carolina agriculture be more profitable.
Dr. Jeremy Pattison is a strawberry breeder and researcher with N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. Pattison is working to identify and encourage particular characteristics in the strawberry to produce a strawberry plant uniquely suited to the North Carolina climate. North Carolina became only the third state to dedicate the resources to a full-time strawberry breeder when N.C. State hired Pattison in 2008. (Faculty Bio)
Dr. James Oblinger leads the educational component of the project. He is a food microbiologist and professor of food, bioprocessing and nutrition sciences. He works with the Plants for Human Health Institute.
Leah Chester-Davis leads the marketing outreach component of the project. She is coordinator of communications for N.C. State at the N.C. Research Campus. (Faculty Bio)
Johnson & Wales University (www.jwu.edu)
Johnson & Wales, internationally known for its strong culinary education program, trains chefs for local, regional, national and international careers.
Chef Mark W. Allison is the dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales in Charlotte. Originally from England, Allison is a celebrated chef who has earned numerous awards and recognitions and is a frequent guest lecturer and judge in international culinary venues. In 2003, Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair honored Allison for his dedication to the fields of education and hospitality. (Faculty Bio)
Melinda Law is the communications & media relations manager for Johnson & Wales in Charlotte.
Golden LEAF Foundation (www.goldenleaf.org)
This project received support from the Golden LEAF Foundation. A one-year $200,000 grant from the foundation provides financial support for the project.
At $74 billion, agriculture is the top industry in North Carolina. There has been a steady decline in industry production values, however, as tobacco, once the king of N.C. crops, decreased in acreage by 86 percent from 1997 to 2007. The decreasing demand for tobacco has left a void – in producers’ fields and pockets – that other high-value crops like strawberries can fill. The N.C State strawberry research and extension outreach program plans to increase the economic value of N.C. strawberries, a $20.8 million industry, by 25 percent over the next few years, using information gleaned from this project to breed an N.C. strawberry that is of superior quality and has a longer growing season.
Leah Chester-Davis, coordinator of communications and community outreach, N.C. State at the N.C. Research Campus, 704-250-5406 or firstname.lastname@example.org