Small Fruit on Small Acres

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Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are two of the most popular berries at the farmer’s market every summer. The demand for fresh market berries has increased as the Medical fields have found some exciting news about these fruits.

Blueberries are full of antioxidants and may reduce the build-up of so-called “bad” cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to scientists at the University of California at Davis. In another USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) lab, neuroscientists discovered that feeding blueberries to laboratory rats slowed age-related loss in their mental capacity, a finding that has important implications for humans. Again, the high antioxidant activity of blueberries probably played a role. Blackberries and raspberries are also high in antioxidants and delicious to eat.

These berries are relatively easy to grow in Rowan and surrounding counties. They can be grown organically without too much trouble. In our area, the Rabbiteye blueberry is better suited for heavy clay soils. The Rabbiteye blueberry varieties can be harvested from late May to late June. For blackberries harvesting of some varieties begins about a week or two after the strawberry season (about the second or third week in June), and can go on from there until late July. Traditionally raspberries have not performed well in the Piedmont, but new cultivars on the market are showing a lot of promise.

blackberries on trellis

Blackberry planting

Blueberries take about three years before you will have a full harvest, while blackberries and raspberries will have a complete harvest the second year after planting. For a small farm operation, there is considerable market potential for “Pick Your Own,” roadside stands, farmers markets, wine production and selling to restaurants and smaller locally owned grocery stores.

blueberry fruit

If you would like to learn more about growing blueberries and blackberries to supplement your income, the Small Fruit Session of “Big Dreams Small Farms” will be on May 23 in Davidson County (301 East Center Street). The cost of the workshop is $25 which includes lunch. In the morning we will have a lecture about the ins and outs of starting a small fruit planting along with a panel of experienced growers. Registration closes May 20, so hurry up and reserve your spot (Big Dreams Small Farms Registration) or call 336-242-2080.

Another great way to find out more about Rowan County Farms is the 2nd Annual Arts and Ag Farm Tour June 1 and 2. This year’s tour includes Renn Bee Farm. Renn Bee Farm is located off Faith Road in Salisbury. The Farm is owned and operated by Marcel Renn, who serves as the current president of the Rowan County Bee Keeper’s Association. At Renn Bee Farm, visitors will not only have the opportunity to purchase award-winning honey products, but they will also get a chance to gain apiary knowledge from one of Rowan County’s most renowned beekeepers. Displays of beekeeping equipment and other tools of the trade will be set-up for the enthusiast to check out as well. For more information on the tour go (Rowan Arts and Ag Farm Tour) or call 704-216-8970.

man holding bee frame

Marcel Renn checks on the status of his Bees