At the base of Mt Hood in Boring, Oregon Jerry Stratton and his family have grown Oregon berries for over 50 years.
A sunny January afternoon in Oregon is rare to say the least. We were able to take advantage of one of these lovely days and visit Jerry’s farm to see what Oregon Berry farmers are working on during the winter months.
How did you begin berry farming?
I farmed as a kid, my grandpa was a berry farmer until I was a senior in high school and after high school I joined the national guard. I came back to berry farming 16 years ago.
What brought you back to the farm?
I came back to Oregon to be with my family and the family business and I was ready to come back after 26 years in the National Guard.
Has your family always farm this piece of land in Boring ?
We have been farming this land since 1961. This year my family has owned the land for 50 years. We mainly grown raspberries, blackberries and a couple of acres of Marionberries. We have 4 fields and we like to get 200 tons of berries out of these fields each year.
What do you do to the fields and canes after the last harvest ?
Tie up or cane everything up to get ready for the winter and subsoil the rows to take care of the erosion.
What is caning ?
Caning is when you cut out the old canes that produced this years crop and keep the ones that have grown, because that is your crop for next year. Then we tie up the new canes and grind up the old canes back into the row to add the humus and put it all back into the ground.
Explain what sub soiling the rows to prevent erosion is.
We use a double shank sub soiler, using the berry picker all season compacts the ground so hard that the rain water would flow right down the row if we left it after the season. We break up the rows as deep as we can so the water goes into the ground instead of running off the field.
Since you tied up your canes and the sub soiled the rows what have you been up to?
The crew is done November 1st. I work all winter in the shop on our equipment and building maintenance. I attend a lot of classes on safety, sanitation, productivity and education. We have 5 machines and 5 tractors and we fix everything we can during the winter. If they break down during the season then your in trouble.
When will you be back out into the fields ?
March 1st we will have our first crew in here to trim the tops of the canes, tie up all the loose canes and clean up the canes for the next few months. No equipment is taking out into the fields until we have to to let everything grow and to protect the soil.
What is the main difference in berry farming from when you were out in the fields as a kid and now?
Berry picking machines were just being developed my last few years before I went into the guard. We mainly handpicked all our berries in those days. We would haul in a pick up truck load and that was a good day. These days on a good day we haul in 3 semi trucks full.
What do you like to do for fun ?
We like to go to Nevada.
Did you win?
– We had fun. You don’t take summer vacations as a berry farmer. That is your busy season you vacation in the winter.
How do you like to eat your Oregon berries?
Right off the bush!