Brouwer Berries, a you-pick/pre-pick strawberry farm near Raymond, can fulfill all those desires for you.
Dan and Sarah Brouwer have been raising and selling local berries for 15 years. Initially, the majority of their customers were neighbors and friends. But as the years went by and word spread, customers began flocking to their place.
“More often than not, all the strawberry rows were claimed within minutes of opening in the morning,” Sarah recalled. “I would have to run to the end of the driveway to put up the closed sign, then dash back to the house to get on the computer and change the website notice.”
Each year, the Brouwers have been astonished by the distances people come to visit their strawberry fields.
“The Twin Cities, Fargo, Alexandria, Morris, Pipestone.” remarked Dan. “The people come from all over.”
In 2012, the Brouwers had to make an important decision. Because the need of the customers far outweighed the amount of strawberries the Brouwers were producing, they either had to expand or get out of the berry business.
They decided to expand the business. In 2013, they planted enough to have three acres ready for harvest the following year, then doubled that again so that there will be six acres ripe for picking this month.
“Visiting with the people who come to our farm is a delight,” exclaimed Sarah. “Everyone has a favorite strawberry or gardening memory from their childhood. I love when they bite into a strawberry and tell me it tastes just like they remember from their mother’s garden.”
“The owners are so welcoming and helpful,” said Ruby Graves, of Clara City, who has been picking strawberries at Brouwer Berries for all 15 harvest seasons. “The fields are clean, and the paths are lined with straw, which keeps me cleaner as I like to get down on the ground to pick. Plus, there are many song birds to listen to while we work, and there are the many varieties of strawberries to choose from.”
When customers arrive to pick their own strawberries, they first go to the front desk to have their particular container weighed. They can then walk out to the field or hop aboard the “Strawberry Express” wagon, where Dan will drive them through the grove of trees to the fields and then assign them a row.
Upon completion, the customer brings the berries back to the front desk, where they are weighed.
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. And beyond that, picking your own fruit can be a lot of fun and makes for a great day trip.
“We have especially enjoyed popping that fresh-from-the-vine berry into our mouth,” said Leone Struxness, of Raymond, who has been coming to Brouwer Berries with her two grandsons for four years. “We also appreciate the family-oriented, personal attention we receive.”
The Brouwers have also had customers pick the fresh strawberries for family functions and ceremonies.
“Last summer, we served freshly picked strawberries at my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower,” said Struxness. “Some of the guests went out to pick strawberries after the shower was over because they thought it sounded like so much fun.”
Aside from flavor and fun, local strawberries are also a very healthy fruit. Numerous studies about various fruits have shown that strawberries prevent cognitive decline, boost immunity, improve eye health, fight cancer, prevent wrinkles, fight cholesterol, reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure and boost fiber.
These benefits aren’t always found in store-bought strawberries, which are generally grown on plastic, sprayed heavily with chemicals, and shipped thousands of miles.
“We grow our strawberries in soil that has been carefully managed with cover crops to include the nutrients and organic matter the strawberries need in order to flourish and ripen on the vine,” said Dan. “And they are sold the day they are picked to provide maximum nutritional benefits.”
Not everyone has the time or health to pick their own berries, which is good news for the local teenage population hired by the Brouwers. Pre-picked strawberries literally fly off the shelves as orders come in via telephone, e-mail, and Facebook.
Customers can also enjoy the serenity of the Brouwers’ farmsite. Adults can relax in the shade by a waterfall, while the children scamper through the trees checking out various farm critters.
It’s a special place for all ages. And the memories will last a lifetime.
Brouwer Berries plans to be open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. during the harvest season. To be alerted to the start of the season via e-mail or postcard, contact Sarah Brouwer at 320-967-4718 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Before arriving, please confirm availability at brouwerberries.com or facebook.com/pages/Brouwer-Berries.