Field Day at Blue Fruit Farm
August 21, 2019
This mid-August educational field day at Blue Fruit farm in SE Minnesota was well attended by farmers, educators and vendors. It was anything but ‘kicking tires’ the day was filled with information on growing, marketing, value-added products and composting.
The event offered a glance at minor fruits that thrive in the Z-4 climate: blueberry, black currant, chokeberry (Aronia), Honeyberry (Lonicera), elderberry (Sambuscus), Juneberry/Saskatoon (Amelanchier) and plums; those were chosen for their high nutrition value and therapeutic components. Commitment to organic farming practices, food safety, health and science-based nutrition runs throughout the operation.
Owners Joyce Ford and Jim Riddle led the presentations. Together with Cathy Lange they run all aspects of operations, other than hired harvesting crews. Harvest season stretches from June (Honeyberry, Saskatoon) to September (Elderberry, Aronia); there are several varieties within any given crop, which help to extend harvest and marketing season.
The 5a growing area, partially covered with overhead bird netting, is situated on a hilltop and surrounded by a myriad of native plants — a blend of grasses and flowering plants. A multitude of butterflies and busy buzzers were present, doing their normal stint.
Regarding integrated pest management, we learned that main invertebrate pests are fruit flies (SWD) and beetle (JB). Bird netting, deer and raccoon-proof fence prevent vertebrate damage. IPM methods also include lure-traps, pruning, and in-row repellence plants (garlic and mountain mint), to fend off voles.
Fertility management employs cover crop/green manure and on-farm composting which follows NOP guidelines; ingredients in the compost include manure, fresh vegetation and wood particles. Fertigation is practiced to a lesser extent, particularly in blueberries.
Marketing is both direct and internet-assisted, with emphasis on health benefits and community wellness. Fruit is sold fresh, frozen, and in preserves (jam, syrup).
Their uniquely designed tool shed captures rainwater into an underground cistern, from where it is utilized via a drip irrigation system, to the crops. The system employs solar panels.
During presentations, time was allowed for questions and comments from the audience. A presentation on the importance of native plants by Prairie Moon Nursery, Winona, MN was also part of the day’s program.
This well-organized event, courtesy of MOSES and the Blue Fruit Farm team, included a generous lunch and social time.