Our mission is to grow the best berries possible at a cost that makes our nutritious berries affordable for all families and with as little negative environmental impact as possible. Sandy Bottom Berries practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which put simply, is a strategy for managing pests that considers every possible remedy to a pest problem, giving preference to those remedies with the fewest effects on the environment. One of the most important things we do is to scout and monitor for problems weekly. This is done by using pheromone traps that are checked weekly to determine the emergence of insects that damage the fruit, mostly fruitworms that burrow into and consume the fruit.
We then reference the various scientific models for pest development and then make a calculated decision as to what strategy to use for control. When chemical control is required, we choose the material that will be the most effective, cause the least environmental damage, and be the least disruptive to our beneficial insect population. Many times we are able to control damage from pests using spray material that is allowed in organic production.
Blueberries and Raspberries are also susceptible to fungal infections that can be very damaging to the plant itself, as well as to the fruit. We employ all the cultural controls we can, such as adequate pruning and thinning to increase airflow, watering earlier in the day to promote quick drying of the foliage, and not over-fertilizing. We are able to maintain some control with foliar applied nutrients such as calcium/phosphite products as well as seaweed. There are times, however, when chemical fungicides must be used to protect the plant and crop. As in the case of insects, we monitor the fields and weather, and using developed models for disease control, spray the appropriate material at the time when it will provide the best control. Most sprays for fungicide happen very early in the season, before the fruit is on the plant. We are ever mindful of the 'taste testing' that goes on and therefore seek the safest and most water soluble sprays possible.
Update for 2014. There is a new invasive pest, spotted wing drosophila imported from Asia. This pest ruins berries by poking holes in the fruit and laying eggs. There are very limited organic controls that work reliably for this pest and in order to provide clean fruit we will have to spray close to harvest and in some instances during the harvest season. We have traps set up at the farm to monitor for this pest and to help us make only necessary sprays and with the safest product we can use. This pest has disheartened many farmers.
You can make a big difference by picking your bush 'clean' of ripe berries.
Many people ask if we are organic, and the answer is no. We have studied the possibility multiple times and there are significant roadblocks for us. The largest is the fertility roadblock. Fertility with annual crops is easily managed with crop rotation, cover crops, and compost. With long term crops like berries, there is no rotating or cover crops, so compost and manure are the only real possibilities and are very expensive for a small farm and can negatively affect the pH for blueberries as well as causing problems with being in compliance with the new federal food safety modernization act. The other issue is weed control, which in an organic system requires much more labor and soil disruption thru tillage, this also adds significantly to cost and the result would not be the clean, park-like atmosphere you have come to expect at Sandy Bottom Berries. We have determined that going organic, and basically having to double the price of our berries, would not promote our goal of providing safe, nutritious and affordable fresh fruit for our community.
The farm is ever evolving and every year we find new ways to improve environmentally. We look at the farm (which is our home, making us that much more careful with all of our farm decisions) as an entire system and always seek improvement for the whole. One example is our flower beds. These are maintained to help to feed our many native bees and beneficial insects and secondarily make the farm prettier. So, you can see that there is a lot more going on than what first appears. As always, we look forward to seeing our old friends and making some new ones. See you in July!