California strawberry peak season is officially here. According to the California Strawberry Commission, California strawberries are available year round with March through August marking the peak season. Eighty-eight percent of the strawberries in the United States are grown in California by more than 500 family farmers who employ innovative and sustainable farming practices.

"California strawberry farmers consider food safety their top priority," said California Strawberry Commission President Mark Murai. "For many years we have invested millions of dollars in research to develop innovative and sustainable farming techniques to bring the very best and safest fruit to consumers."

First-generation strawberry farmer, Hector Gutierrez, employs many of these practices. Based in Oxnard, California, Gutierrez views himself as an environmentalist and strives to be a steward of the land. Growing up in an agricultural family in the Central Valley, Gutierrez has developed a profound respect for the environment. In addition to being a farmer, Gutierrez also is a licensed pest control consultant. He uses a low-risk environmental approach that combines natural and preemptive methods for pest prevention.

Gutierrez owns and operates both organic and conventional strawberry farms and weaves a wide range of organic principles into his conventional farming. He utilizes a bug vacuum to remove pests and plants flowers around the perimeter of his farm, shielding the fruit from dust and attracting beneficial insects — all of which allow him to reduce his use of pesticides.

"We're able to keep coming back year after year because we like working with the soil and we like producing good quality fruit," explained Gutierrez. "We want to be stewards of the land, and in order to be stewards of the land and allow it to produce the crop that it does, we have to take the best care of it."

Gutierrez and his family enjoy California strawberries straight from the field and in this fresh Strawberry Cucumber Salad.