By Emeline Rodenas
For IN|Fort Wayne newspapers
FORT WAYNE — Despite a slow start to the spring, berry season is approaching quickly and Fort Wayne’s very own Tanglewood Berry Farm is set to open Saturday.
The farm at 7520 Covington Road is open to the public and offers a variety of pick-your-own and ready-picked produce including blackberries, red raspberries, strawberries and blueberries as well as specialty produce.
According to Kelly St. John, research manager at Tanglewood Berry Farm, the opening, originally scheduled July 3, was delayed due to cooler spring weather conditions and difficult winter wind storms, which were followed by bone-chilling temperatures.
As a result, the farm’s blackberries are twos week behind schedule, and its blueberries should be ripe within a few more weeks.
“Early season strawberry yields were down,” St. John said, but she’s hopeful the other berries will soon ripen, especially if Mother Nature cooperates. With the recent warm spell, farm staff are working to protect the berries from sunscald as well as pests and fungal diseases.
Staff worked Wednesday to set up cover screens to provide the blueberry plants some shade and protect them from being picked off by birds.
The farm also works with local beekeepers, who maintain hives on the property to help with pollination of plants.
The farm, which started in 2002 in Wells County, was eventually moved to Allen County near Hadley Road. In 2017, the farm had five acres of blackberries as as you-pick. Produce from the farm was also sold at local grocery stores under the brand “Nature’s Partner.” New this year, the farm has two-and-a-half rows of blueberries, which will be available for picking.
While selling the produce to local grocery stores is an option, the you-pick portion has had a lot of success, especially with the rising local food initiatives.
“It’s much more feasible running it as a you-pick,” St. John said.
To participate, people must first purchase a field access pass, which costs $2 per person and is free for children 3 and younger. Pick-your own strawberries are $4 per pound and $5 for ready-pick; you-pick blackberries are $5 and $6.50 for ready-pick; you-pick raspberries are $6 a pound or $8 for a 12-ounce ready pick container; and blueberries are $5 a pound for you-pick and $7 for a ready-pick 12-ounce container. A fruit medley is also available at $7 a pound.
When the farm isn’t growing berries, it participates in research projects to develop new crop production methods, products and systems designed for small-to- midsize farms and urban agricultural operations, according to its website.
Currently, the farm is part of a first year United States Department of Agriculture grant, which focuses on commercializing a hops trellis. The five- to seven-foot hops plants are growing well under supervision and St. John is watching for corn borer worms, which have been feasting on the bind of the hops. The worms usually feed on corn, but due to Indiana’s present lack of corn, another victim of the cool and wet spring weather, the farm now must watch out for other insects.
A small section of the hops area even has smaller 30-feet trellis sections, which will be developed for the home brewing market, a growing market in the urban agriculture world.
Incorporating these research projects even helps make picking the fruit easier.
Since the farm’s blackberry bushes are all trellised, this means they can they be lowered down when winter hits and protected from the elements. It also means people picking berries won’t need to bend down as much to get them. All of the farm’s picking areas are handicap-accessible and child friendly.
St. John is excited for what’s to come, including a yoga event on July 12. More information will be announced on the farm’s website, //www.tanglewoodberryfarm.com/. Other ideas, according to St. John, include a couple’s night at the vineyard and some under 21 events.
“We’re looking forward to getting everything set up,” St. John said.
She hopes to have a good crowd on opening day and also encourages groups of all sizes and ages to contact the farm to set up an educational tour.
“I would encourage people to join our weekly newsletter. There, you’ll get weekly crop updates,” St. John said.
The farm’s hours will be Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Its website recommends people bring their own containers as the farm has a limited supply of 1-pound containers that can be purchased at the farm stand. The farm can be reached at 260-416-4464.