Berry Farm - How To

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by CJ, Jun 16, 2004.

  1. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We're considering turning our 40 acres of front pasture into a berry farm, but I'm having trouble finding any information on doing so. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
    Thanks!
     

  2. caroline00

    caroline00 Well-Known Member

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    dont use Arkansas Berry
    they delayed our fall order to Spring of the next year and tried to delay it again to the next fall after getting our money for our large order the spring before that first fall

    we had to start cc'ing our email correspondance to an attorney to get our plants. They dont answer thier phones

    The Extension office in MO has an email publication called *The Berry Basket* its out of the extension *Fruit station* in Mountain Grove

    If you are anywhere near there, you can visit the fruit station. They also offer classes... we even called them ahead of time and set up our own family class one Feb
     
  3. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks guys, you're turning up about the same stuff as I do when I search. Obviously I'm not searching right, maybe I need something like "idiots guide to starting a berry farm"!
    Really basic questions like; how to buy berries at commercial rates, how to plant 10,000 bushes, what equipment is needed... blah blah blah. The other stuff I've already read.

    Marketing, soil preparation, diseases, pests, I can find it, I just can't find the idiot questions :no:
     
  4. heelpin

    heelpin Well-Known Member

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  5. heelpin

    heelpin Well-Known Member

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    Contact your state extension office.
    http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/AFSIC_pubs/altlist.htm
     
  6. mvfarms91

    mvfarms91 Well-Known Member

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    you may want to ask a tree farmer. Apple, pine, etc. they may be your best bet.

    Good luck,
    Susie
     
  7. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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  8. heelpin

    heelpin Well-Known Member

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    CJ, we had a big hoopla in this area a few years back about growing rabbiteye blueberries, they are so easy to grow and so prolific everybody thought they were going to get rich easy but it turns out the easy to grow part is the catch, everybody soon had their own berries and the markets were flooded, it was a big disappointment. Its a different story with blackberries, people will come for miles to pick good blackberries but they are more labor intensive. We had the same thing happen with muscadines as the blueberries, we even had a processing plant in the county and acres were planted and they were harvested with a machine but it soon dwindled out. I think this failure was due to incompetent marketing. Muscadines are a very high antioxidant fruit and if they had been promoted as a health food I think it would have taken off. I also think there is a market for Pomegrante juice, this is beginning to become popular as a natural antioxidant. I saw some of this in Kroger, 8 oz for over 5.00. The natural health food angle is the way to go in my opinion, the babyboomers are ready to buy anything that suggest its anti-aging.
     
  9. "idiots guide to starting a berry farm"!

    You need to contact a growers associations that grow what ever berries you are interested in growing, simple.


    I'm sure that old Norm here can answer many of your questions, especially if you buy from him.
    Equipment:
    Littau Harvester
    A company that specializes in manufacturing berry harvesting machines for all cane berry crops, and keeping those machines in top condition.
    Littau Harvester
    Stayton Oregon
    USA
    Contact: Norman Johnson
     
  10. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

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    We grow some blackberries,rasberries and blueberries for our own purposes. I haven't had much luck with blueberries (6 bushes left and only so so production of berries) but we do pretty good with blackberries (up until the gas transmission company clear cutting their easement we had about a 1/4 acre of blackberries). We collect about 50 pounds a year for baking pies and freezing. That quantity doesn't include what we eat fresh.

    I have about 3 acres at our farm that I plan on converting to berries. It will take me a couple seasons to prepare the location. There's currently young saplings (some 2 inch diameter or so) under some very very large electric power lines (towers 200 foot+). Seeing as the various utility companies seem to be on a clearing easements kick I'm hoping to convince them to bulldoze/clear the area. If they do that I'm willing to take responsibility for keeping the easement clear.

    In any event, the first thing you want to do is check your soil. Berries tend to like acidic soils. They also like lighter soils. This is why you see such nice berry farms in Michigan.

    For planting you could look for one of those tow behind (3pt) planters where it creates the hole and there is a person sitting on a backward facing seat that plants the plant. A two row would probably work fairly well.

    Pruning is important. Each winter we go out and cut dead canes and burn them in our campfire pit. Of course we spread the ashes back among the bushes.

    Most blackberries are biannuals. The first year you have a bull cane and the second year it bears fruit. There are everbearing varieties where you cut down the cane in the spring and it bears in the fall.

    There are also thornless varieties such as the Doyle. I prefer the thorned varieties as it slows the deer down some. On the other hand, we eventually end up getting scratched (eventually) even with long sleeves and pants.

    I was reading somewhere that there is a new (true) everbearing variety that starts early and actually keeps on producing through the summer. It's just being released to the nurseries in quantity so it will be a year or two before it is available generally.

    You should also consider whether you are going to use posts and wire. Much easier to prepare before you start growing. The basic concept is that you train the blackberry bushes between the wires. You can also use additional wires at picking time to hold the plants back (wider aisles to work from).

    Berry production can be pretty lucrative but it's a lot of work. I knew a fellow who had 8 acres in berries and he was probably grossing $7,000 an acre or better. They would pick the berries in the late afternoon/evening and pack them. He was up early and at the westside market (Cleveland) by 6am at the latest. He was semi-retired and enjoyed the work. Eventually he sold out because the land was worth so much (and taxes kept going up).

    Mike
     
  11. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Are you located near Missouri? In Columbia, Missouri there is a Small Farm Today conferance, and there are usually lectures about raising berries. I attended one and it ws EXC$ELLENT. There were pictures of common diseases, fertilizer requirements, marketing, and so forth. It is held every Fall.
     
  12. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We're in Missouri, and just 20 minutes away from the University fruit station up in Mtn. Grove. Guess I'll go up there and see what I can find out. We'd like to split the 40 acre section of pasture up, into apple trees, blueberries, blackberries and grapes or rasberries. We grow all of those know and they do beautifully for us, we just do them on a small scale to feed the two of us.

    We currently use a trellis setup, posts and HT wire. Pears do fairly well for us too, peaches and cherry are a bit iffy. We want to expand our beehives as well, and maybe add a small greenhouse. I hate to put all our eggs in one basket, so we want a manageable variety of things to hopefully make up the slack should one thing not do well one year, etc.
     
  13. caroline00

    caroline00 Well-Known Member

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    they sponsor a 3 day berry class early in the year, each year. It is in Springfield. I think it was in March. My husband goes each year.
     
  14. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

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  15. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks everyone, lots of great info!