Quantcast

How to Start a Suburban Berry Farm

k-ko / Moment / Getty Images

By Michael Brown

If you're looking for a way into part-time farming, you don't need 20 acres of rolling fields located in the middle of nowhere. You might be sitting on your future farm right now—in your own suburban backyard.


Before You Start

Every great undertaking needs a bit of planning and reflection. Take the time to do things right.

1. Check with your local municipality. Some places may be more open to the idea than others. It helps to be a good neighbor—no chemical spraying, noisy animals or power equipment at the break of dawn.

2. Make sure you have time for farming. A demanding corporate job may be biting off more than you can chew.

3. It may seem unnecessary, but get legit. Unless you want to stay very informal, register as a business, get farm insurance and learn something about keeping records.

4. Feel out the markets. Talk to some local high-end chefs about their interest in berries or stop by your local produce market to see if they want to carry the berries you're thinking of growing. Every location has different market conditions.

What Should You Grow

The possibilities are endless, but berries—especially less common berries—rank high on the list of things to grow. While they're not the perfect crop—they require a lot of labor for harvesting, and birds can be major pests—there are many advantages.

1. Berries command good prices. You just need to look at the produce section of your local supermarket to see the price of berries flown in from hundreds of miles away. Your stuff will be tastier, fresher and more nutritious.

2. Depending on the berry, they can be sold fresh or frozen. This gives you huge flexibility for selling your crops.

3. Some customers may need relatively few berries. This allows you to get into restaurants and other places that might otherwise be closed to you.

4. Berries lend themselves to many markets. Many of these markets are high-end.

Markets

If you can't sell your berries. you're spending a lot of time on little return. Here's how to sell your harvest.

1. Restaurants: Approach high-end eateries, which are usually places where the chef has a lot of decision-making power. They may also love less common berries that they aren't able to source locally. Consider offering them gooseberries, red and black currants or Haskap berries.

2. Produce Markets: Produce stores should be interested in expanding their offerings of local berries, which are extremely popular these days. Consider gooseberries, red and black currants, Haskap berries, goldenberries or even some of the more conventional berries if they don't have a good local supply.

3. Individuals: Never underestimate the power of the "old country." Many Europeans grew up on berries that aren't readily available here, and they will eagerly buy them. If you're just starting out with some less common berries, consider gooseberries, red and black currants, elderberries, jostaberries or seaberries.

4. Herbalists: Herbalists can produce value-added products from your berries. The primary berry for them is elderberries.

Finally, start small. Plant several types of berry plants and see which varieties do the best for you. Make sure that you enjoy the work and manage your time. Learn about local and regional markets and, as your confidence grows, you can expand your knowledge base. And from there, who knows? Maybe one day, you'll get those 20 acres of rolling fields after all.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

By Kate Murphy

No matter the time of year, there's always a point in each season when my skin decides to cause me issues. While these skin issues can vary, I find the most common issues to be dryness, acne and redness.

Read More Show Less

David Woodfall / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Sam Nickerson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April 2018 proposed relaxing standards related to how it assesses the effects of exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals on public health.

Now, correspondence obtained by the LA Times revealed just how deeply involved industry lobbyists and a controversial, industry-funded toxicologist were in drafting the federal agency's proposal to scrap its current, protective approach to regulating toxin exposure.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Steve Irwin poses with a three foot long alligator at the San Francisco Zoo on June 26, 2002. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

February 22 is the birthday of conservationist and beloved TV personality "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who would have been 57 years old today.

Irwin's life was tragically cut short when the barb from a stingray went through his chest while he was filming in 2006, but his legacy of loving and protecting wildlife lives on, most recently in a Google Doodle today honoring his birthday.

Read More Show Less
Left: Youtube / Screenshot, Right: alle12 / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

That video showed the extrusion of a bubblegum-pink substance oozing into a coiled pile, something between Play-Doh, sausage and soft-serve strawberry ice cream. Branded "pink slime"—the name came from an email sent by a USDA microbiologist in 2002—this stuff was actually beef, destined for supermarkets and fast-food burgers.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the European Commission on Feb. 21 in Brussels, Belgium. Sylvain Lefevre / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged a quarter of $1 trillion budget over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.

In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.

Read More Show Less