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

IrrigationCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Growers
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More
EquipmentEnter To Win A Kubota At The Washington State Horticultural Association Annual Meeting
October 29, 2014
Attendees have a chance to take home a new utility vehicle courtesy of Wilbur-Ellis and Western Fruit Grower. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
The funds will go toward helping growers implement conservation practices to improve honey bee health. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More

The Latest

IrrigationCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Grower…
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More
EquipmentEnter To Win A Kubota At The Washington State Horticult…
October 29, 2014
Attendees have a chance to take home a new utility vehicle courtesy of Wilbur-Ellis and Western Fruit Grower. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
The funds will go toward helping growers implement conservation practices to improve honey bee health. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More
PotatoesNew CEO At Black Gold Farms, A Top 100 Grower
October 28, 2014
Eric Halverson takes the reins at the potato operation, while his father Gregg will remain president of the farm’s board of directors. Read More
FruitsValent U.S.A., MGK Enter Into Marketing Agreement
October 28, 2014
Valent U.S.A. to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products beginning in April 2015. Read More
VegetablesMultistate Land-Grant University Research Project Contr…
October 28, 2014
The project began in the 1970s as a Regional Initiative and has since expanded Internationally. Read More
FruitsMichigan State Offers Online Database Of Tree Fruit Dis…
October 28, 2014
Search engine helps growers identify several issues in the orchard. Read More
Stone FruitStudy Examines How To Keep Sweet Cherries Fresh
October 28, 2014
Canadian researcher says cooling of sweet cherries is key to delivering a quality product. Read More
Protected AgricultureLED Lighting Symposium To Be Held At University Of Ariz…
October 27, 2014
Event to focus on LED lighting technologies for specialty crop production. Read More
Cucurbits11 Cool Cucurbits For Florida’s Climate
October 27, 2014
Leading vegetable seed companies highlight high-performance selections for growers in the Sunshine State. Read More
CitrusModern Agriculture Is A True Centerpiece Of Thanksgivin…
October 27, 2014
FFAA's Mary Hartney says take time during this holiday season to give thanks where thanks is due. Read More