Berry Different

A fruit farmer in New York state shares her knowledge of growing some of the best berries you've never tasted.

By Sue Smith-Heavenrich

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Katie Creeger operates a small fruit farm in New York state where she grows rather unique berry varieties. Red, purple, black, gold: There’s a rainbow of sweet berries just ripe for the picking.

Katie Creeger grew up with apple trees. But when she decided to go into farming, she knew she’d have to grow fruit on a smaller scale. “I’m a small person, and trees are just too big,” she jokes. So she decided to grow berries. All kinds of berries.
 
Kestrel Perch Berries, Creeger’s farm in Ithaca, New York, is named for the birds flying overhead. It’s small, as farms go—just under 5 acres. But it’s big enough to serve Creeger’s dream: a place where children and their parents can connect with the food they eat. The farm is a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation with a twist. Instead of simply picking up a box of fruit each week, members come to the farm with their families and pick their own berries in the fresh air and sunlight. CSA members also commit to 3 hours of work over the season: moving a few wheelbarrows of mulch or pulling weeds. 
 
Although the farm is not certified organic, organic methods are followed, so that children can eat berries right off the vine, cane, or bush. Creeger grows strawberries, red raspberries, and blueberries, but to introduce people to new flavors, she’s planted black raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and elderberries. Here are her tips to help gardeners get started with a backyard berry patch.
 
Photos by Sean McCormick
 
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