“See this berry?” I ask a group of eager young children crouched down on clean straw, in the middle of rows of strawberry plants laden with red fruit. “The strawberry is like a bottle of pop; all the sweetness is locked up inside. Pick it gently, and keep the green lid on top, or the fizz will start bubbling out, just like a pop bottle. When you are ready to taste it, twist off the green top, and pop it into your mouth – a juicy, sweet strawberry!”
Fifteen years ago, my husband casually mentioned to me that he’d bought a few strawberry plants. “How many?” I asked, somewhat distractedly. “Fifteen hundred,” he replied. At this point, my eyes jerked open, and I started spluttering. “What on earth for?” He explained that he and his mom were going to start a strawberry U-picking farm, but he was sure it wouldn’t affect me in any way.
Since that time, a wonderful mix of people of all ages have come strawberry picking at our farm, Brouwer Berries, just eleven miles west of Willmar. Today, we have fifty thousand plants. Everyone who comes eagerly joins in the harvest experience. A field-fresh strawberry tastes fantastic! More and more, parents want their children to participate in the farm-to-table experience, and there’s no better lesson than harvesting your own food. But beyond that, picking your own fruit is tons of fun, and makes for a great day trip.
Everyone enjoys riding the Strawberry Express to and from the field, and parents love to wander around the gardens, or enjoy some time in the shade, while the kids run around looking at the farm critters. There are plenty of farm critters lurking. Banty hens, ducks, kittens, turkeys, bunnies, and some Hereford cow/calf pairs give everyone a chance to see and smell life on a Minnesota family farm. Once, a curious customer asked, “Why aren’t the chickens penned up?” She was shocked to find out that ‘free-range’ means the critters actually get to range freely!
Not everyone has the time or health to U-pick, which is good news for the local teenage population. Last summer, we hired twenty wonderful teens. Pre-picked strawberries literally flew off the shelves as orders came in via telephone, e-mail and Facebook. Strawberries are a finicky crop, and we’ve done a lot of experimenting to figure out what varieties will grow well in our heavy, alkaline soil. Harsh winters, late frosts, powerful winds and heavy rain all threaten our berries, but that only makes the rewards of a ripe basket even sweeter. Join Us! Are you ready to start a new family tradition? From our tiny little plot of ground all those years ago, we’ve grown to nearly six acres of strawberries, ripe to welcome you and your family to Brouwer Berries. Come aboard the Strawberry Express!
For strawberry harvest dates, contact Sarah Brouwer at 320-967-4718, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.brouwerberries.com
“The absolute best, sweetest & juiciest berries on this earth!” Angela Zwart, social worker at Rice Hospital
“These berries never disappoint and the people who grow and care for them are amazing.” Wendy Ulferts, Rice Hospital Chief Nursing Officer
“Spectacular. Clean. Such a “service-oriented” family.” Bev Werder, owner of Compassionate Care
***This was a magazine article written by Sarah Brouwer and published in the Seasons Magazine, June/July 2015 edition.