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Small fruit on small acreage

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension Director

Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are three of the most popular berries at the Farmers’ Market every summer.

The demand for fresh berries has increased as scientists have found exciting news about these fruits.   Blueberries are full of antioxidants and may reduce the build-up of LDL or bad cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to scientists at the University of California at Davis.

In another USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) lab, neuroscientists discovered that feeding blueberries to laboratory rats slowed age-related loss in their mental capacity, a finding that has important implications for humans.

Again, the high antioxidant activity of blueberries probably played a role. In our area, the rabbiteye blueberry is better suited for heavy clay soils. The rabbiteye varieties can be harvested from late May to late June.

Blackberries and raspberries are also high in antioxidants and delicious to eat. These berries are relatively easy to grow in Rowan and surrounding counties. They can be grown organically without too much trouble.

For blackberries, harvesting of some varieties begins about a week or two after the strawberry season (about the second or third week in June), and can go on until late July. Traditionally, raspberries have not performed well in the Piedmont, but new cultivars on the market are showing a lot of promise.

Blueberries take about three years before you will have a full harvest, while blackberries and raspberries will have a complete harvest the second year after planting.

For a small farm operation, there is considerable market potential for pick-your-own roadside stands, farmers markets, wine production and selling to restaurants and smaller, locally-owned grocery stores.

If you would like to learn more about growing blueberries and blackberries to supplement your income, the Small Fruit Session of “Big Dreams Small Farms” will be on May 23 in Davidson County (301 E. Center St.). The cost of the workshop is $25 which includes lunch.

In the morning we will have a lecture about the ins and outs of starting a small fruit planting along with a panel of experienced growers. Registration closes May 20, so hurry up and reserve your spot at http://go.ncsu.edu/smallfarmseries2019 or call 336-242-2080.

Another great way to find out more about Rowan County Farms is the second annual Arts and Ag Farm Tour June 1 and 2.  This year’s tour includes Renn Bee Farm, off Faith Road in Salisbury. The farm is owned and operated by Marcel Renn, who is the president of the Rowan County Beekeeper’s Association.

At Renn Bee Farm, visitors will not only be able to buy award-winning honey products, but they will also get a chance to gain apiary knowledge from one of Rowan County’s most renowned beekeepers. Displays of beekeeping equipment and other tools of the trade will be set up for the enthusiast to check out, as well. For more information on the tour, go to http://artsandagtour.com or call 704-216-8970.

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