At long last, it has arrived: berry season! And nowhere is this more evident than at the booth of Boones Ferry Berry Farms, piled high with flats and pints of luscious Hood strawberries.
Boone’s Ferry Berry got its start two decades ago with only ten acres of strawberries in Hubbard, Oregon. Owners Cyndi and Paul Snegirev, both raised in farm families, started farming together shortly after their marriage in 1989, and it’s been a family affair ever since. Those ten acres turned out to be incredibly rich, producing a record-breaking quantity of strawberries per acre in the first season. From there they’ve expanded their offerings to include blueberries, marionberries, raspberries, and loganberries. Each year they also offer sweet yellow corn around the fourth of July, though this year our rainy weather delayed planting enough that it’s looking like a mid-July crop. Farming is full of factors outside of the farmers’ control, and try as one may to schedule harvests for holidays, sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas.
Boone’s Ferry Berry delivers their sweet-tart gems to farmers markets throughout the Willamette Valley, and supplies local Whole Foods markets as well. They will be at our Moreland Farmers Market until August. The next couple of weeks will bring additional strawberry varieties (Albion and Shuksan), and then raspberries toward the end of June. Blueberries, marions, and logans will follow as our Oregon rains subside (fingers crossed, everyone!) and the sun shines through. Anyone who has grown berries knows that our rainy springs are a blessing and a curse, especially with strawberries. The plants of course need plenty of water to thrive, but cool, rainy weather that leaves ripe berries wet can turn them to moldy mush before they can be picked and brought to market. The easiest solution is spraying fungicides, but in response to customer requests, Cyndi says they are experimenting this year with alternatives to spraying, such as covering portions of the fields to keep them dry.
I asked Cyndi how the local food movement could be more effective in supporting family farms like hers. She said the most important thing is for markets to source their produce locally, and that will only happen if customers demand it. The power for change really lies with all of you eaters out there!
Come visit Boones Ferry Berry Farms’ booth at the market, or take a trip down to the farm to pick your own berries and visit their new farm store. (More information can be found on their website.) In addition to fresh berries and corn, they offer a range of pickled and preserved goodies. And next year they’re hoping to expand the store to include a kitchen so they can bake and sell fresh doughnuts!