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Minnesota Farm Specializes In Blue Fruit
Blue Fruit Farm went blue accidentally. When an organic farmer quit renting 5 acres from Jim Riddle and Joyce Ford in 2008, he left behind an 8-ft. tall deer fence. They decided to look for a way to put it to use.
“I wanted to plant blueberries, but that was going to take a lot of soil amendments,” recalls Riddle. “Joyce suggested starting out with elderberries and other fruit that didn’t require as much up-front work.”
They ended up going with a variety of fruits - aronia berries, currants, honeyberries, juneberries, plums, blueberries - and nearly all were blue.
“One day we were talking about a name for the farm as we ate some blue corn chips, and I suggested calling it the Blue Fruit Farm,” says Riddle. “While we do have some red and yellow plums, pretty much everything else is blue.”
Every acre is not only protected from deer, but also covered with netting to keep out the birds. The deer fence is surrounded with an 8-in. high electric barrier. It’s designed to discourage raccoons.
In addition to maintaining their organic certification, Riddle and Ford emphasize pollinator habitat restoration. They also worked on soil organic matter and erosion prevention.
Drip irrigation uses rainwater from the roof of a machine shed. The water is strained and stored in a 1,500-gal., above ground, poly tank and a 4,500-gal., underground, concrete cistern.
“It’s filtered twice before being pumped to the drip irrigation lines,” says Riddle. “We can inject fish emulsion when we want to boost fertility for certain crops, like blueberries.”
The 12-volt irrigation pump and the electric fence charger are powered by 2 solar panels with battery storage. Rainwater can be supplemented with well water pumped to the cistern.
All the crops receive a top-dressing of compost made on-farm from wood and shrub chips, prunings, grass clippings and horse manure from a nearby farm.
Fruit is picked and sorted by hand and placed in walk-in freezers to preserve flavor. The chilling also stops development of spotted wing drosophila eggs.        
“We went online in 2019 with a Barn2Door managed web presence,” says Riddle. “That has really helped us find customers this year.”
The Blue Fruit Farm shop has frozen fruit, and a wide range of jams, jellies, juices and sauces.
Many juices and jams are 2 and 3-way mixes of blue fruits, as well as a recent introduction called bluebarb. It combines blueberries and rhubarb and was marketed via the farm’s Facebook page with a link to the Barn2Door app for ordering.
Prices range from the sold out, frozen elderberries at $40 for 5 lbs. to juices at $12 for a 12-oz. bottle and various jams at $7 per half pint.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Blue Fruit Farm, 31762 Wiscoy Ridge Rd., Winona, Minn. 55987 (ph 507 450-9567; bluefruitfarm@gmail.com; www.bluefruitfarm.com).

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2020 - Volume #44, Issue #6