Tag Archives: blueberries

Meet Swift Creek Berry Farm.

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Although the business has grown and changed quite a bit in the last thirty years, it has roots tracing back to the late 1800s when Joseph Tiberus Goode bought land in a part of Chesterfield County known as Moseley and raised sheep, tobacco, and vegetables for the Richmond market. Today, Clyde and Kathryn Goode alongside sons David and Jonathan and daughter Kimberly carry on what Joseph started at the Moseley farm, albeit with a bit of a twist. There is no longer a mule-drawn cart and travel to Richmond involved, and instead, visitors come to the u-pick operation to harvest their own berries and introduce their children to the fun tradition.

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Back when Joseph Goode passed away, the land was unfarmed until Clyde and Kathryn began growing a large garden on their property and then dove into the world of blueberry production in the 1980s. Virginia Cooperative Extension played a role in the transformation, as now-retired Extension agent Michael Henry assisted the family with the transition to the new crop. As time went on, the blueberry acreage increased. The family transitioned to Rabbiteye varieties after seeing that they offered better performance than the Northern Highbush varieties in the farm’s location.

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IMG_1950 (1024x683)The farm has added several greenhouses in the past two decades in order to offer high-quality spring and fall plants and vegetables to customers, and David even has his own business, Piedmont Hops, growing on part of the property. The Goode family understands that diversification of products and income is the key to success for a direct-market operation like Swift Creek Berry Farm, enabling customer engagement outside of the summer blueberry season.

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Water is delivered to the plants via a drip irrigation system.

Visitors look forward to returning to the farm each year when berries start ripening in late June. What they may not see is the incredible amount of work required to maintain the plants. Back in the eighties, the Goode children were enlisted to help plant, prune, harvest, and maintain the plants, and the work has never really stopped. Blueberries must be pruned annually to stimulate the growth of fruiting canes, prevent overgrowth, and remove any disease. For several thousand plants, this is a monumental task that requires hours of hand labor. Since rain is never a guarantee in central Virginia, the farm uses a drip irrigation system, which must also be maintained and monitored. During the summer months, cleanup and weed control is a high priority to ensure that customers can walk comfortably between the long rows of plants. The Goode family opts to control weeds using mowing, hoeing, hand removal, and weedeaters. They also strive to protect the natural resources around them by utilizing “BMPs,” or Best Management Practices, to maintain their crop and forest land.

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IMG_1899 (1024x683)In a growing county like Chesterfield, direct-market operations like Swift Creek Berry Farm and Greenhouse offer a rare and valuable opportunity for people to engage with producers, support local businesses, and get a taste of farm life. Many adults fondly recall childhood memories of berry picking and are eager to introduce their children to the experience, and customers who bring home whole buckets of berries at a time to bake a pie or cobbler find a great deal of satisfaction in the endeavor. The blueberry season may be fleeting and the year-round work behind the scenes may be taxing, but the Goode family provides an experience to the community that simply cannot be found at the grocery store.

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Additional Resources for Readers:

Swift Creek Berry Farm and Greenhouse website

Swift Creek Berry Farm and Greenhouse Facebook page

Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication: Specialty Crop Profile-Blueberries

Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication: Small Fruit in the Home Garden

Virginia Grown producer directory

Meet Richard Jackson.

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Richard is doing something rather unique in his part of Amelia—he is growing blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. There are quite a few families growing small fruits and fruit trees in Central Virginia, but Richard is one of the few landowners who has delved into berry production as a farm enterprise.100_0862 (1024x768) (1024x768)

He brought his first plants to his property in 2012, and his experience since then has been positive. He harvested and sold berries this summer and is expecting more to ripen soon as the summer winds down. Richard hopes to add more plants in the upcoming season. His operation includes raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

100_0852 (1024x768)Thanks to careful planning and good foresight, Richard realized that if he grew varieties that matured at different times of the year, he would have a constant supply of berries either for sale or for potential use in products made on the property. For example, his Arapaho blackberries ripen in early summer, while his Triple Crown blackberries ripen in July or August. Berries can only last for a few days in a cooler before they spoil, and it is difficult to pick, store, and market large quantities of berries that are ready for sale all at once.

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Richard has faced his share of challenges during the establishment of his plants. Although moisture was not his biggest concern this year thanks to abundant rain, he set up a drip tape irrigation system in anticipation of dry summers in the future. Drip tape runs down the rows and contains openings that deposit water close to the ground near the root zones of the plants. This prevents fruit rot, which can spread and grow more easily under an overhead watering system, and the system reduces moisture losses from watering during hot weather. 100_0841 (1024x768)Like all growers, he continues to battle weeds and grasses that grow between the rows of berries. Any unwanted plants growing near the berries compete for valuable nutrients and water. Richard is working on fine-tuning his fertilizer regimen, but using soil tests has helped him eliminate guess-work and strategically choose which nutrients are needed and which are not. Using soil tests to inform fertilizer decisions prevents producers like Richard from over-applying costly nutrients.

100_0855 (1024x768)Richard mulches around his plants in order to suppress weeds and control moisture. He has found that pine fines work well around his blueberries. Mulches made from pine tend to be acidic, and blueberries need to grow in acidic soils with pH levels near 4.5-5.2 Richard has begun to use other materials around his blackberries and raspberries, which prefer soil pH levels near 5.8-6.5.

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100_0846 (1024x768)If all goes well, Richard hopes to expand his operation and adopt management strategies that will encourage increased berry yields. He has plenty of chores to continue through the year, including the perpetual task of pruning canes and branches, but the effort he has put into getting his farm off the ground is paying off.  

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Berry growers must control insects in order to maintain a marketable product, but they should take careful steps to avoid harming populations of beneficial insects and pollinators. For example, a grower should choose the right product for the target pest and use it in a time frame when beneficial insects are not active around the plants.

Additional Resources for Readers:

Small Fruit in the Home Garden

Answers to Common Blueberry Questions

Small Fruit Planting-Reasons for Planning Ahead