Quantcast

How to Start a Suburban Berry Farm

Food
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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

David Gilmour performs at Anfiteatro Scavi di Pomei on July 7, 2016 in Pompei, Italy. Francesco Prandoni / Redferns / Getty Images

David Gilmour, guitarist, singer and songwriter in the rock band Pink Floyd, set a record last week when he auctioned off 126 guitars and raised $21.5 million for ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law group dedicated to fighting the global climate crisis, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks during a forum April 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Trump administration ratcheted up its open hostility to climate science in a move that may hide essential information from the nation's farmers.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
Protestors and police stand on ether side of railway tracks. dpa / picture-alliance

Police have cleared 250 climate activists who stayed overnight at the Garzweiler brown coal mine in western Germany, officials said Sunday.

Read More Show Less
Cecilie_Arcurs / E+ / Getty Images

By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon

The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Cigarette butts are the most-littered item found at beach clean ups. John R. Platt

By Tara Lohan

By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.

Read More Show Less

Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust

By Fran Korten

On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.

Read More Show Less
Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday. SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube screenshot

Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday as they demanded the paper improve its coverage of the climate crisis, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less