Member Spotlight: Blue Fruit Farm

Minnesota Grown sat down with Tom Riddle from Blue Fruit Farm to learn more about his farm and the berries he grows. Located in the Driftless bluffs of Southeastern Minnesota, Blue Fruit Farm has been growing organic fruit since 2009. Originally started as a vegetable farm in the 1980’s, the farm decided to plant their first berries in 2010. This original planting grew to five acres of berry production. In the member spotlight below, Riddle shares more about the journey of Blue Fruit Farm.

Minnesota Grown: Tell us about your farm.

Blue Fruit Farm: In 2009, we planted our first berries, and added berries each year for the next three years. We are certified organic through Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) and focus on diversity within our farm through our products, markets, and our biological footprint. Diversity in our products can be seen by the multitudes of berries, jams and jellies, and native grasses we sell. Our markets are diverse in that we sell to individuals looking to buy organic throughout the state as well as retail and wholesale markets. We diversify our farming practices to lessen our ecological footprint around growing the berries on our farm.

MG: What are the benefits of blue fruits?

BFF: Blue fruits are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and many other health benefits. Our product page has health benefits on each of the berries.

MG: What fruits do you grow?

BFF: We have several varieties of blueberries, elderberries, black currants, plums, cherry plums, aronia, and honeyberries. Our website has information on each of these fruits and the varieties available.

MG: What are your growing practices?

BFF: We are MOSA Certified Organic. All of our plants are perennial, therefore we do not plow or have any erosion issues. We use solar panels to power our water pumps for irrigation.

MG: How do you manage the pH and fertility of your soil?

BFF: Since blueberries need a pH of 5.5 to thrive, we need to lower our 7.5 pH soil through compost, peat moss, and organic matter. Elemental sulfur pellets are also added for slow release of sulfur and will lower the pH without hurting the plant. For more information about our farming practices, check out our fertility management page.

MG: How do you harvest your fruit?

BFF: All of our fruits are hand harvested. This minimizes the leaves and debris in the bin and protects the crop from damage. We pick them at the peak of ripeness. We test the sugars using the Brix scale, which is a unit of measurement that tests the sugars and total dissolved solids in an aqueous solution.

MG: Where do you sell your berries?

BFF: We sell our berries direct to customers, to restaurants such as Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis, Forager Brewery in Rochester, Blue Heron Coffee House in Winona, and to several local food co-ops. We also sell to wholesale distributors. We make and sell homemade jams and jellies directly to customers and at fall farmers markets.

MG: How do you protect the berries from wildlife?

BFF: We have fences surrounding the berries. To protect from birds, we have an overhead netting system, a Bird Guard sound system, and fake owls and falcons. Since badgers hate the sound of human voices, we have the radio playing near the berries.

MG: What efforts have you made toward providing food sources for pollinators?

BFF: Our fruit bushes, clover, and native plants all provide food to pollinators. We sell our hand-harvested native grass seeds to Prairie Moon Nursery.

Thank you Blue Fruit Farm for sharing about your farm and your insights on growing organic berries! Did you know that you can search the Minnesota Grown directory for organic products under the “certification” drop down menu? Check it out to find an organic berry farm near you.