If you want to learn a lot about berries, start with knowing next to nothing! For River Ridge, a few good resources got our project in the ground: Michael Phillip’s The Holistic Orchard inspired a biological approach to growing fruit crops, and the Mid-Atlantic Guide to Berries provided the commercial growing basics.
SWEAT AND STUDY
Brantley sums up the farming experience as the difference between concept and application, and it is in this mix that we have learned the most about berry crops and how to care for and harvest them. In addition to hard work, hard knocks, and observation, membership in the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association introduced us to seasoned professionals who turned us on to new practices, technologies, and even plant genetics.
SOME LESSONS LEARNED
Perennial doesn’t mean permanent
The commercial berry orchard needs a succession plan like any other produce crop system.
Diseases and other pests are unavoidable and will eventually necessitate a crop rotation.
Much of this year’s work is for next year’s harvest
During the harvest season it’s just as important to tend to new plant growth as it is to pick fruit.
If you stay on top of it, you’ll pick even more next year! (Hard work pays off)
Production and Marketing have to coordinate
Scaling production to match available markets is a complex challenge that is site-specific and can fluctuate from season to season.
Different fruits and fruit qualities are suited for different markets
A Value-Added component can help boost the bottom line
Turning seconds (fruit unsuited for fresh market) into a shelf-stable product can help cash flow and makes the most out of the harvest
From jams and syrups to freeze-dried berries, we’ve been exploring the many different ways berries can be preserved and enjoyed well after the harvest season is finished.