This past week (Thursday the 11th of June) we kinda,-sorta, opened up with some hesitancy. It's always hard to know when to open because there's the balance of wanting to have enough berries to share and not wanting any to spoil. This year we were grateful to have just the right amount of berries for just the right number of people these first few days and now we're already headlong into it. The season has begun.
It's always interesting to meet new people and hear about their connections to Iowa. Sometimes that's a relative they are in town to visit. Other times they moved to Iowa City for a job and are just now getting a chance to explore the area or maybe they even grew up just down the road or in a neighboring town.. Where ever you came from, know that we'd enjoy having a bit more time to get to know you but sometimes have to scramble around with our duties here on the farm instead. Hopefully you're finding Eastern Iowa a decent place to call home for now and learning about a few of the interesting spots around and meet some of the local people who all have their own stories too.
We hope to see you out here this year, and if it's not too busy at the time, hopefully we can have a moment to chat a little and get to know you more.
What a wonderful time of year. It's nice and cool outside in the mornings and the sunsets have been great! The rain is getting old, but other than getting a little wrinkly, at least we're pretty waterproof.
The strawberries are looking good so far and might just be a week or two away from bursting into ripeness!
Right now on the farm there is much to do. Weeds to pull, signs to make, emails to answer, batteries to charge, tractors to fix, and the list goes on, but it's hard to focus sometimes when beautiful goldfinches and hummingbirds flit by with their bright colors and magical flight.
The Bees have been buzzing and we hope to have a bit of honey for sale this year. It's been a tough go for the little guys with unusual winters the past few years but we stay optimistic and do what we can to help them survive. We planted a native pollinator seed mix nearby this year and hope the red clover will give them plenty of places to alight as they look for inviting flora.
It's a busy time of year, but a good one. Going to bed exhausted from a day's work of something your proud to be a part of is a good feeling. We hope you too find something that feels so worthwhile to spend your time doing.
Looking forward to seeing you this Spring,
Mark & Kristina
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Somehow it got to be March of 2020 already! How time flies.
Today is a cold and overcast day after a beautiful warm sunny day. It's telling how weather affects our moods.
In March orders are placed, in April strawberries can be planted, in May weeding rules our time, in June harvest comes and July is time for renovation. Then it's back to weeding during August and September. Today though, I'm looking forward to a farm visit to learn a bit more about how others tackle challenges, what equipment they use and how to best plan for the unknowns of weather and pests and a changing market.
Though we are often creatures of habit, farming is certainly an occupation where there are enough variables that no two years are the same, no amount of planning can insure things with go as planned and there is always more to do than time in the day.
Somedays knowing this is exhausting, other days it's exhilarating but one thing is sure: no matter what, by the end of a good day, my body is good and tuckered out.
I hope whatever occupation you've found for yourself it's one that you can feel good and tuckered out by at the end of the day too.
We are working hard these days to prepare for the Pick-Your-Own season right around the corner but the bees are out working even harder. They've been buzzing around pollinating the strawberry blossoms that we've been watching grow. It's great to get to catch one of these hard workers in the act! Kristina gets credit for this photo but we've also seen butterflies, sweat bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators around this spring contributing to the natural processes we all take for granted.
Glad to get a chance to observe the natural way things work! If you're interested in bees too you can find a good online resource here that will help explain what's going on inside the hive.
May has finally come! Our Spring Newsletter can be found online <<<HERE>>>
It's been fun to put it together and look back through the pictures from a year ago and remember some of the good interactions we had with all of you. Thanks for making last year such a great one and we're looking forward to seeing you again this JUNE!
In the winter it’s easy to get into the doldrums of routine and forget about the new growth hidden in the ground ready to appear in the spring. I’ve looked at the pictures of strawberries I took last summer, scrolled through Google’s Image Search on the subject, and even bought some “fresh” California strawberries in a fit of impatience, but there’s really nothing that gets me close to the feeling of reaching down, brushing aside a few leaves and finding a beautiful, bright red strawberry looking back at me begging, "Choose Me, Choose Me!!".
The berries we grew here at The Berry Basket Farm last summer were hands down the best I’ve ever had! Ok, I’m biased, but knowing how much work went into the patch, how much time, energy and anticipation there was bringing those little starts to the point where they could do the thing they were made to do – bear good fruit... Knowing that made those berries of our first season just so delicious.
My wife, Kristina, and I were glad so many folks could come and join us for a few hours, put in a little work themselves and taste the fruits of their labor. We’re looking forward to meeting more friendly folks this year and will hopefully see some faces we recognize from last year. If by June when you come back we've forgotten your name, don’t be shy, tell us again! We love making new friends but it's tough when we only see each other a few times a year.
Last year we did our best to keep ahead of the weeds and dry spells on our “West Patch” which was tucked behind the windbreak but we also put in another patch that wasn’t ready to be harvested last year. Our goal in this new “East Patch” was to try different varieties and see how they do in our soil here on the farm. Most varieties survived the summer heat well enough and though we don’t know what the winter chill did or what the spring weather will bring, we’ve put in many more strawberries and so hope to have plenty to share.
Maybe you have a friend or two that LOVE strawberries, or appreciate local agriculture, or know someone who might just need a outing to get away from things. If that's the case, tell them about The Berry Basket Farm and send them our way, or better yet, bring them with you this June. You can chat as you pick together, snap some photos and have something to keep you going next winter when the cold doldrums set in again next year.
If you have any questions or want to know how you can get involved here at The Berry Basket Farm give us a call: 319-325-7542
This week Kristina and I returned from the frozen and mysterious land of a place called Wisconsin. True, it's certainly close enough, but going to visit this part of the world during winter, and this week in particular, was an adventure.
Armed with the knowledge that the place we'd be going would have the "World's largest indoor water park," Kristina agreed to go along on the trip to the Wisconsin Berry Growers Conference in Wisconsin Dells. We made the trip there just fine but overnight a blizzard set in and by the next day we were hesitant to even leave the conference center for lunch. The sub-zero temperatures and the wind blowing the new snow around was bone-chilling.
Of all places to be "trapped" for a few days, this was probably the best place we could have asked for to be honest. The three day conference was packed with useful seminars and opportunities to meet other berry growers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa. Seeing the vendors at the trade booth and the solutions they had come up with for common problems berry growers run into was helpful and encouraging. For instance, David and Teresa from Ag Resource Inc have been growing strawberries for more than a decade and really had some good tools to recommend. Another vendor sold irrigation equipment and talked about some of the challenges that might pop up.
The seminars we attended focused on pests, diseases, best practices and research about strawberries. It was a lot to take in, but we are new and we know we have a steep learning curve ahead of us.
We're grateful for the the connections we made, inspired by others who have started their own Pick-Your-Own berry operations in their local communities and energized to try some new, different things this year at The Berry Basket Farm.