They’ve been pickin’ and grinnin’
By LARRY KERSHNER
NEVADA – “It’s been busy,” said Dean Henry on Oct. 18 as he directed cars to parking spaces on his farm. “But last weekend it was busier.”
Henry and wife Judy Henry and son Mike Henry own and manage The Berry Patch Farm, just south of Nevada.
The Henrys have been in the orchard business since 1970.
Theirs is a 100-percent pick-your- own operation.
Dean Henry said the 2014 apple crop was not as fruitful as the 2013 crop, which got a yield bump last year following the 2012 drought year.
“But we’re still selling apples,” he said. “We’re more fortunate than other orchards who ran out.
“They’ve had to go out-of-state to get more.”
On Tuesday, the farm’s website www.berrypatchfarm.com said it still had honeycrisp and Jonathan apples for picking, plus butternut and Hubbard squash and jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.
Those who visit the farm, at 62785 280th St., in Nevada, get a hayride out to whatever is in season. On Oct. 18, it was primarily Chieftain apples and pumpkins, although a few red raspberries were still available.
Janice Martin and her family were on the farm for the third time this year.
She made the trip for Chieftain apples and her grandchildren were looking for pumpkins.
They are frequent berry pickers throughout the year, she said.
Berry Patch Farm has 40 acres under fruit cultivation including the apples, rhubarb, strawberries, gooseberries, tart cherries, blueberries, blackberries, black currants, raspberries in red, black and gold, gourds and pumpkins.
Judy Henry said the operation avoids picking and placing fruit in cold storage. Nothing is frozen.
The Henrys have contracted with delivering fresh fruit to Des Moines-area schools, and they also contract to provide fresh fruit for area community-supported agriculture businesses.
Berry Patch is also affiliated with the Iowa Food Cooperative, designed to facilitate farmer-consumer relationships and build farms and communities through web-based marketing of Iowa products.
“We pick close to maturity dates,” Judy Henry said. “Our reputation is that customers know they can get the best taste.”
That reputation, she said, has led to repeat business, including one family from Minnesota that drives to the farm twice annually to pick berries.
“We give them a variety of good food,” Henry said. “This is not agritourism. You are just a guest on our farm.”
The farm is not organic per se, Dean Henry said. “We don’t call ourselves that, but most fruits are not sprayed.”
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