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
Grapes
February 18, 2017
Sustainability Is a Growing Factor in Wine Purchasing
California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance updates certification program, shows sustainability is important part of wine trade. Read More
citrus psyllid closeup
Insect & Disease Update
February 18, 2017
The War on Citrus Psyllids Still Raging
Despite control challenges, keeping the pest in check remains the best approach to managing HLB. Read More
IMPAC.org screenshot
Citrus
February 17, 2017
How Precision Agriculture Is Helping Farmers Win Over Consumers
New Florida-based organization is seeking to break down barriers between farmers and shoppers by providing a platform to not only show what it is grown, but how it's grown. Read More
Grapes
February 17, 2017
Washington Organization Rebrands Itself
Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers unveils new identity at convention, now known as Washington Winegrowers Association. Read More
Registration area at the 2017 Florida Blueberry Growers Association Spring Meeting
Berries
February 17, 2017
Florida Blueberry Growers Counting on a Comeback
With last season's disaster in the rear view, all eyes are searching for bluer skies. Read More
Agras MG-1 agriculture drone
Equipment
February 17, 2017
Wanted: Tech Innovators for Drone Challenge
Land O'Lakes Prize offers up $150,000 to help make drones more useable for farmers Read More
Fruits
February 17, 2017
Are Drones the Future of Pollination?
Researchers in Japan have turned drones into robot bees as artificial pollinators. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 16, 2017
Young Start-Up Hort Tech Companies Honored
Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology Scholarships promote sustainability. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 16, 2017
Young Farmer Success Act Reintroduced to Congress
Bill to add young growers to Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Read More
Fruits
February 16, 2017
New App Helps Fruit Growers Calculate Chill Hours
App helps growers calculate chill hours based on locations and models and assess physiological needs of fruit crops. Read More
The Latest
Grapes
February 18, 2017
Sustainability Is a Growing Factor in Wi…
California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance updates certification program, shows sustainability is important part of wine trade. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
February 18, 2017
The War on Citrus Psyllids Still Raging
Despite control challenges, keeping the pest in check remains the best approach to managing HLB. Read More
Citrus
February 17, 2017
How Precision Agriculture Is Helping Far…
New Florida-based organization is seeking to break down barriers between farmers and shoppers by providing a platform to not only show what it is grown, but how it's grown. Read More
Grapes
February 17, 2017
Washington Organization Rebrands Itself
Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers unveils new identity at convention, now known as Washington Winegrowers Association. Read More
Berries
February 17, 2017
Florida Blueberry Growers Counting on a …
With last season's disaster in the rear view, all eyes are searching for bluer skies. Read More
Equipment
February 17, 2017
Wanted: Tech Innovators for Drone Challe…
Land O'Lakes Prize offers up $150,000 to help make drones more useable for farmers Read More
Fruits
February 17, 2017
Are Drones the Future of Pollination?
Researchers in Japan have turned drones into robot bees as artificial pollinators. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 16, 2017
Young Start-Up Hort Tech Companies Honor…
Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology Scholarships promote sustainability. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 16, 2017
Young Farmer Success Act Reintroduced to…
Bill to add young growers to Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Read More
Fruits
February 16, 2017
New App Helps Fruit Growers Calculate Ch…
App helps growers calculate chill hours based on locations and models and assess physiological needs of fruit crops. Read More
Citrus
February 16, 2017
Food Trends Driving Growth Opportunities…
More niche markets emerging for growers to give consumers what they want and need. Read More
Vegetables
February 15, 2017
Tanimura & Antle Will Now Be Partial…
The third-generation farming company takes employee commitment to the next level Read More
Business Planning
February 15, 2017
Are Retailers Your New Competition?
Target will be following a trend that is already under way in Germany and China: offering shoppers greens that are grown right there in the store. Read More
Citrus
February 15, 2017
Florida Citrus Community Loses Longtime …
John Merritt, known as an innovative grower and staunch industry advocate, was 60. Read More
Farm Management
February 14, 2017
Californians Holding Breath as More Stor…
Nearly 200,000 people evacuated below nation’s tallest dam; even growers have had enough for now. Read More
Stone Fruit
February 14, 2017
Georgia Peach Growers Brace for Low Chil…
Last year trees netted almost 700 chill hours; however, Extension agent expects that figure to drop to 600 hours this year. Read More
Grapes
February 14, 2017
2016 California Winegrape Crush Up 9%
Prices were up 12%, and red wine grapes continue to gain on white wine grapes in popularity, though ‘Chardonnay’ remained king. Read More
Berries
February 14, 2017
Wish Farms Shows Love With Super-Sized S…
More than 4,000 pounds of locally grown produce from Central Florida farming operation goes to help feed needy families in the Tampa area. Read More