Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 4, Issue 3
   June 2009
   Running a Berry Farm

I never wanted to be a farmer. That is precisely why I don't understand how I find myself crawling on my hands and knees, pulling weeds from strawberry fields year after year. One row down, only seven more acres to go. How did I get here?

Our family was happily living in the suburbs of Ottawa, Ontario, with dad gone to an office job every weekday and mom at home raising four children. But the land must have been calling my parents, because, for some reason, they rented acreage and planted 1,000 semi-dwarf apple trees.
  Fresh berries
Shown here are the worthwhile results of the planning and hard work that goes into each season at the berry farm.

In 1981, they bought a 30-acre farm in Kanata, Ontario (American zone 4/Canadian zone 5a). We moved in, carefully replanting all the trees. But apple trees don't produce fruit until they are seven years old, and we needed a crop to sell. The answer, according to my fruit-farming grandfather, was strawberries, which take only one year to mature before they can be harvested. We took a chance by planting two acres. Within five years, we began to turn a profit and identified our land as a berry farm rather than just an orchard.

And our customers love our strawberries! But I often wonder how much they know about what goes on behind the farm gates during the months before they can sink their teeth into a fresh, juicy berry? Most people don't realize that we begin planning for the summer growing season in February and March, deciding on goals, hiring staff and ordering the new plantings that will bear fruit the following year.
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