Berries On The Rise In Popularity

Nate Nourse

The berry and small fruit industry has expanded greatly in the last few years, thanks to headlines touting health benefits, as well as growers in many areas looking for alternative crops. How are berry suppliers dealing with this increased demand? We talked to Nate Nourse of Nourse Farms in South Deerfield, MA, to get his input.

Q: How has this year’s unusual weather affected your growers and your own business?
The early season has been a huge challenge for our growers and for us. Everyone was trying to hold their strawberries back. Half of our growers made it through OK, and half struggled, if they had a crop at all. It’s been tough for everybody. But we’ve handled it really well. Most of our customers who had frost protection were able to save their berries or at least a portion of them. Everyone saw some loss, or some effects. As for the dryness, it’s been a big problem for some. They don’t have enough water, and their ponds are drying up. I just finished talking to a customer about fertility for next year. It’s so critical to have the plant healthy because we’re going to be making flower buds next month, and we need to have the planting in good shape. Last year all the rain led to root rot problems, and now we’ll have dryness. It’s been a battle to say the least.

Q: What are the biggest questions or topics your growers are asking about this year?
Nourse: The weather is always a factor, and we try and prescribe things to help people through those issues. But the biggest problem affecting everyone right now is the spotted wing drosophila. We’ve been watching it, and more than half of our customers are now aware, but many are still just finding out. There are a percentage of our customers that only have pick-your-own sales, and this is the only way their berries are harvested. There are chemical and cultural methods to manage the spotted wing drosophila, but that doesn’t help growers who only harvest on the weekends. We saw this coming, and told people about it as they started fall raspberry plantings. A grower in New York told me he never had to spray his raspberries before, and he’ll have to now, or he won’t be able to sell them. We’ve also had growers tell us their customers picked the berries, and went home and made jam, and all these worms floated to the top. I’ve answered more questions about this than any other issue in the history of our business. We know we have to work with it and live with it. The weather is a big part of the problem in the East and Midwest, because a small rain can wash the effectiveness of a treatment away.

Q: What variety traits are your customers asking about?
The biggest thing is having a variety they can take to market and work into their system. Whatever berry that is, we try and have that all-purpose variety that everyone can use. Then we have about 30 varieties each of strawberries and raspberries that give them alternatives. We’re looking at better production potentials so we have something fresh for them.

Q: What is the biggest issue affecting your own business?
For us, we’ve been blessed with this economy being tough. More home gardeners are planting, and I think that’s helping drive the locally grown movement. Locally grown, including the expansion of farmers markets and CSAs, is really going to help us. We couldn’t be in any better position. The CSA people are my biggest customers, and the CSA and farmers’ market growers buy earlier in the week than your pick-your-own customers, which creates a balance in sales.

Q: What do you do to assist your customers once they buy from you?
We are here every day to answer questions. We have a newsletter we send out twice a year that has information relevant to the time of year. The newsletter goes out in November and March. We also recently started producing videos. The first one covered plasticulture, and I am finishing another one on raspberry pruning which will be available this winter.

Q: What’s next for Nourse Farms?
We purchased two farms two years ago, and one of them produced half our strawberry crop last year. That same farm is planted again this year, and a good portion of our production will come out of there. Having those new farms with new ground for strawberries has been very important for us to have a better product. We have a three-year rotation for everything we grow, so there is a constant cycle of new plantings. We are also giving high tunnels a good shot. All the high tunnel information we get from our growers using them now, we can build on it ourselves and then pass it along to new high tunnel users.

We have been farming in Washington state for more than 10 years, which gives us another area to expand our efforts. West coast berry production is growing very fast because of the buy local movement, and it’s been a great thing for us to have a land base that’s never had berries before. It also helps us deal with new geography issues and keeps us more globally present and aware of what’s going on in different areas.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Berries On The Rise In Popularity

  1. Schedeen Farms has been doing business with Nourse Farms for about 7 years and with their unusual cultivars and and hands on assistance we've experienced a great increase in our production and profits. With our focus on fresh market berries ,their help has been essential to our success.Thanks.

Featured Stories
New citrus grove in Florida
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Florida Citrus Granted New Incentive To Grow On
A state-backed $5.5 million grove renovation/re-establishment incentive is now available and accepting applications. Read More
Judi Whitson, 2016 Florida Woman of the Year in Agriculture
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Meet Florida’s 2016 Woman Of The Year In Agriculture
Dedication to fostering the state’s farming future defines the latest winner of longtime honor. Read More
University of New Hampshire scientists constructed a linkage map of the seven chromosomes of the diploid Fragaria iinumae, which allows them to fill in a piece of the genetic puzzle about the eight sets of chromosomes of the cultivated strawberry.
Berries
August 24, 2016
Researchers Unravel Genetic Ancestry Of Cultivated Strawberry
A genetic analysis conducted by New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researchers aims to improve modern cultivation efforts of strawberry growers. Read More
Justin Clements, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center working in the Department of Entomology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the recipient of NPC's 2016-2017 Academic Scholarship.
Potatoes
August 24, 2016
Fifth-Year Doctoral Student Receives NPC’s Scholarship For Potato Research
The National Potato Council (NPC) has announced that Justin Clements, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Read More
2011 WA IFTA Tour
Fruits
August 24, 2016
Don’t Underestimate The Value Of Production Bus Tours For Your Business [Opinion]
Sure, you can see and talk with virtually anyone in the world through your smart phone, but you can’t shake their hand. Read More
Crowd protesting GMOs stock image FEATURE
Farm Management
August 24, 2016
Swaying Views On GMO Foods No Easy Task
Featured speaker for the upcoming FFVA Annual Convention says tides are slowly turning in how people digest the concept of genetic modification. Read More
A subsurface microirrigation system.
(Photo credit: Peter Jacoby)
Grapes
August 23, 2016
Deeper Irrigation Method Showing Promise For Vineyards
A new subsurface irrigation system is showing promise for slashing water usage in vineyards. Many vineyards use drip lines that Read More
Tar spot of corn
Disease Control
August 23, 2016
Florida Sweet Corn Has New Deadly Stalker In Tar Spot
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this disease. Read More
sprayer nozzles
Fruits
August 23, 2016
New Insecticides Geared To Give Growers Edge Over Pests
Check out three unique chemistries from several of the industry's leading crop protection suppliers. Read More
Prepping apples for cleaning, waxing, and sorting.
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2016
Apple Crop Forecasts Live On Twitter
You'll be able to get up-to-the-minute reports of not only the various regions of the U.S., but key production regions around the world. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Florida Citrus Granted New Incentive To …
A state-backed $5.5 million grove renovation/re-establishment incentive is now available and accepting applications. Read More
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Meet Florida’s 2016 Woman Of The Year In…
Dedication to fostering the state’s farming future defines the latest winner of longtime honor. Read More
Berries
August 24, 2016
Researchers Unravel Genetic Ancestry Of …
A genetic analysis conducted by New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researchers aims to improve modern cultivation efforts of strawberry growers. Read More
Potatoes
August 24, 2016
Fifth-Year Doctoral Student Receives NPC…
The National Potato Council (NPC) has announced that Justin Clements, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Read More
Fruits
August 24, 2016
Don’t Underestimate The Value Of P…
Sure, you can see and talk with virtually anyone in the world through your smart phone, but you can’t shake their hand. Read More
Farm Management
August 24, 2016
Swaying Views On GMO Foods No Easy Task
Featured speaker for the upcoming FFVA Annual Convention says tides are slowly turning in how people digest the concept of genetic modification. Read More
Grapes
August 23, 2016
Deeper Irrigation Method Showing Promise…
A new subsurface irrigation system is showing promise for slashing water usage in vineyards. Many vineyards use drip lines that Read More
Disease Control
August 23, 2016
Florida Sweet Corn Has New Deadly Stalke…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this disease. Read More
Fruits
August 23, 2016
New Insecticides Geared To Give Growers …
Check out three unique chemistries from several of the industry's leading crop protection suppliers. Read More
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2016
Apple Crop Forecasts Live On Twitter
You'll be able to get up-to-the-minute reports of not only the various regions of the U.S., but key production regions around the world. Read More
Oranges
August 22, 2016
Major OJ Purchase Promises Relief For Fl…
$30 million planned acquisition from USDA to be used for surplus removal. Read More
Varieties & Rootstocks
August 22, 2016
Florida Citrus Breeders Squeezed For Tim…
The pressure is on to develop a more HLB-tolerant orange. Read More
Pest Control
August 21, 2016
Spotted Wing Drosophila: For Michigan, …
Why the pest can be so much more destructive for Eastern cherry growers might be due to what they’re not farming. Read More
Grapes
August 19, 2016
European Grapevine Moth Eradicated From …
Agricultural officials confirm eradication of invasive pest, lift quarantine restrictions. Read More
Fruits
August 19, 2016
Parts Of New York Now In Extreme Drought
Water deficits starting to cause concern for fire, water shortages in the Empire State. Read More
Citrus
August 19, 2016
Rough Winter In Store For Much Of The U.…
The Old Farmer’s Almanac and its competitor The Farmers’ Almanac predict the 2016-2017 winter will be cold for much of the country. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2016
Florida Farmer Takes Fresh Approach To G…
New easy-peel, seedless varieties offer market potential. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 18, 2016
USDA Invests $17.8M To Educate Next Gene…
Money will bolster efforts of partner organizations to increase next generation of growers. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]