When we planted our first blueberry bushes in 2012 we really weren’t sure how successful they were going to be. The more we talked to people about planting blueberries, the more stories we heard about locals trying to plant blueberries in their home gardens with little or no success.
While we were determined to figure out how to get the blueberries to produce, we knew it would be 5-7 years before they would reach full production.
Instead of just waiting until then, we needed to continue adding to our homestead.
Our Short-lived Tree Farm
With this in mind, we actually started our business plan as a tree farm, rather than a berry farm. That first year (around the time we planted 100 new blueberry bushes), we planted 1,000 Norway spruce seedlings. All of them were planted by hand, in open space on our land and in the woods.
We thought this could bring us some variety, but with the drought, all it brought us was 1,000 dead Norway spruce seedlings.
Water was an insurmountable challenge. All the trees needed to be watered by hand with watering buckets. The trees were even further from the water source than the blueberries.
It came down to the fact that we had to choose what to keep alive. The cost of the blueberry bushes and the potential profit years down the road resulted in us fighting for those little bushes instead of the trees.
Just a Few Strawberries
While I was so excited about those little blueberries growing in the field, my husband wanted to grow a few strawberries, just for us to eat. I went to the local gardening store and purchased 18 strawberry plants and put them at the edge of a field. I knew that we wouldn’t get many the first year, so I just planted them, watered them once and a while and forgot about them.
We decided not to even straw around them in the winter time. If they made it through the winter, they made it. If they didn’t we weren’t out but a few bucks. I figured we could try again another year, when the weather was more favorable, and I felt like I had more time to devote to them.
Besides, who would want to spend all that time bent over picking strawberries?
The following spring, my husband took the day off from his other job to get caught up around the homestead. While he was evaluating what needed to be done, he noticed that the strawberries went a little crazy over the winter. There were runners rooted in everywhere!
So…he gets an idea…
By the time I got home from work, he had broken the sod and tilled up about half an acre with an 18″ hand tiller. Then he transplanted all of the new strawberry plants, enough to almost fill the area he tilled.
Our 18 strawberry plants turned into 125, with almost no day-to-day effort on our part!
We sold every strawberry we didn’t eat that season. A few people heard we had strawberries, and before we knew it we had more demand for than we could possibly fill.
This really got us thinking and evaluating all the time we were spending on the blueberries, irrigating, mulching, adjusting soil pH levels, and checking for nutrient deficiencies.
This was when we made the decision to go “all in” on strawberries, at least until our blueberries were producing. We ordered 2,000 strawberry plants to plant that summer. It takes a year before they really produce, so we were hopeful that by the following summer, we would have enough strawberries to be able to fill the demand in the area.
The First Sign
One day while we were planting some of the 2,000 strawberries we ordered, my husband stopped me and wanted to talk.
Apparently he had been praying for a sign that we were doing the right thing starting our berry farm. As he went out the door that morning, he asked the Lord to give him a sign that he was making the right decision to move forward with the business. We had no idea how we were going to make everything work.
That day he experienced his first direct answer to prayer. He was working on a planter for a local farmer. This farmer was unsuccessfully battling Stage 4 cancer. The two of them were talking about the work that needed to be done when all of a sudden the farmer grabbed him and said, “Boy, if there is something you are wanting to do, you better do it!” Then he went right back into the conversation.
This conversation was exactly the sign we were looking for. Following our own hearts and our Lord, we decided that a berry farm was exactly what we needed.
Want to learn more about why we started our berry farm? Click the link below.