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
Business PlanningBe Food Safety Recall-Ready [Opinion]
August 31, 2015
No one ever wants to make someone sick after consuming fresh produce, but in spite of the protocols in place, recallls happen and you must be prepared. Read More
Crop ProtectionSustainable Options For Controlling Stink Bug In Vegetables
August 31, 2015
A researcher from Rutgers University offers pointers to help you control this pest of fruits and vegetables. Read More
CitrusNominations Open For Next Class Of Florida Citrus Hall Of Famers
August 31, 2015
Inductees to be honored during the 54th annual Citrus Celebration Luncheon. Read More
CitrusWhole-Farm Revenue Protection Insurance To Be Available In 2016
August 31, 2015
USDA offers greater flexibility for beginning, organic and fruit and vegetable growers. Read More
Cucurbits8 Must-Have Melons
August 31, 2015
This month’s variety specs feature focuses on the latest cantaloupe and melon varieties. Some of the features highlighted include disease Read More
drought management; irrigation; water management
CitrusClear Up Misconceptions About Water Use In Ag
August 31, 2015
Those in the industry need to to clear up misconceptions about water use in agriculture. Read More
FruitsNew Airless Tire For Center Pivots
August 31, 2015
Aperture design provides flexibility over ridges to help prevent overloading of the drive train. Read More
Stone FruitHow Canopy Structures Can Affect Sweet Cherry Productivity
August 31, 2015
We have previously explored orchard cover technologies to modify climatic risks in sweet cherry production, such as rain-cracking and spring Read More
Fruits6 Tips To Avoid Postharvest Losses
August 31, 2015
Avoiding postharvest losses essentially comes down to knowing what techniques to employ, and what to evade throughout each link in Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateProducts To Help Your Trees Fight Off Citrus Greening
August 31, 2015
Tree decline is one of the major components of citrus greening disease or huanglongbing (HLB). Vectored by the Asian citrus Read More
The Latest
Business PlanningBe Food Safety Recall-Ready [Opinion]
August 31, 2015
No one ever wants to make someone sick after consuming fresh produce, but in spite of the protocols in place, recallls happen and you must be prepared. Read More
Crop ProtectionSustainable Options For Controlling Stink Bug In Vegeta…
August 31, 2015
A researcher from Rutgers University offers pointers to help you control this pest of fruits and vegetables. Read More
CitrusNominations Open For Next Class Of Florida Citrus Hall …
August 31, 2015
Inductees to be honored during the 54th annual Citrus Celebration Luncheon. Read More
CitrusWhole-Farm Revenue Protection Insurance To Be Available…
August 31, 2015
USDA offers greater flexibility for beginning, organic and fruit and vegetable growers. Read More
Cucurbits8 Must-Have Melons
August 31, 2015
This month’s variety specs feature focuses on the latest cantaloupe and melon varieties. Some of the features highlighted include disease Read More
drought management; irrigation; water management
CitrusClear Up Misconceptions About Water Use In Ag
August 31, 2015
Those in the industry need to to clear up misconceptions about water use in agriculture. Read More
FruitsNew Airless Tire For Center Pivots
August 31, 2015
Aperture design provides flexibility over ridges to help prevent overloading of the drive train. Read More
Stone FruitHow Canopy Structures Can Affect Sweet Cherry Productiv…
August 31, 2015
We have previously explored orchard cover technologies to modify climatic risks in sweet cherry production, such as rain-cracking and spring Read More
Fruits6 Tips To Avoid Postharvest Losses
August 31, 2015
Avoiding postharvest losses essentially comes down to knowing what techniques to employ, and what to evade throughout each link in Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateProducts To Help Your Trees Fight Off Citrus Greening
August 31, 2015
Tree decline is one of the major components of citrus greening disease or huanglongbing (HLB). Vectored by the Asian citrus Read More
CitrusGMOs Might Be The Solution To Invasive Diseases [Opinio…
August 30, 2015
Huanglongbing is ravaging Florida’s iconic oranges and California's are at risk; we should not just stand by and watch the U.S. citrus industry dry up. Read More
BerriesRemoving Leftover Roots May Improve New Raspberry Crop’…
August 30, 2015
Soilborne pests and pathogens can be reduced by taking out last year’s red raspberry roots and crowns. Read More
CitrusMany HLB Finds In California
August 30, 2015
Scientists always said it was just a matter of time, but having an incurable disease like Huanglongbing infect the state’s citrus is jarring. Read More
NutsGrowers Claim Pistachio Trees Diseased – Nursery …
August 30, 2015
Whatever the cause, pistachio trees are suffering from Pistachio Bushy Top Syndrome, and tens of thousands of acres in California and Arizona will have to be replanted. Read More
CitrusFederal Judge Blocks Clean Water Rule
August 28, 2015
  According to RISE (Responsible Industry For A Sound Environment), a federal judge in North Dakota has blocked implementation of Read More
PotatoesUSDA Deregulates Late Blight-Resistant Genetically Engi…
August 28, 2015
Agency cites no significant impact of special spud developed by J.R. Simplot. Read More
Food SafetyLawmakers Urge FDA To Help Small Farms With FSMA Compli…
August 28, 2015
Letter from members of Congress asks FDA to expedite assistance and training for small producers. Read More
FruitsSustainable Options For Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Cont…
August 28, 2015
The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), unfortunately, is here to stay. Found in the U.S. in the late 1990s, this Read More