Strawberry Fields Forever
What is better than a red, ripe strawberry picked fresh from the field? "Nothing" is the answer that Doug and Diane Finke would give.
The couple's berry farm near Carlton, Minnesota has come a long way since it began in 1986. It was Doug's passion to be self-employed that first brought Doug and Diane to farming. What keeps them farming now is love of the growing process, watching the strawberry plants change and grow from spring through summer to fall when they go to winter sleep under their blanket of straw. "We hold their hands", as Doug would say. Originally Finke's Berry Farm produced vegetables as well as berries, but the focus now is totally on the 10 acres of new strawberry planting each spring and 10 acres of established strawberries for picking. No pesticides are used - no herbicides, no insecticides, no fungicides. The work force consists of the Finke family and hired help, comprised primarily of local high school and college students.
Soil Fertility Program
By using compost and green manures, the soil on the berry farm is continually renewing itself. This fertility program is enhanced through the use of foliar fertilizers that are applied during critical growing times. Foliar fertilizer helps to keep the berry plants at their optimal nutritional levels, which gives the berries a great taste and contributes to the reduction of disease and insect damage. No petroleum-based fertilizers are used. Harvesting berries from each field only one year, plus crop rotation to green manures (rye and vetch), make the absence of pesticides possible. By mowing around the fields, and through the use of cultivation and tillage equipment between the strawberry rows, the Finke's are able to control most weeds. The weeds that persist are taken care of by the tenacious work crew who dispose of them with hoes and hands.
Healthy and Happy Customers
"With healthy and happy berry plants, the next goal is healthy and happy customers," says Diane Finke. Whether it is families, school groups, or individuals, many people have enjoyed the pleasure of picking their own berries at Finke's Berry Farm. "We want our customers to have fun; we want them to feel like it is 'our farm'. We believe that friendly, helpful service can't be stressed enough." The people who stop by the farm for a day of berry picking and those on the receiving end of delicacies made with Finke strawberries are reaping the bounty. Strawberries are great eaten fresh or made into pies, jams, smoothies, shortcake, salads, fruit pizza, shakes, bread, muffins, margaritas, ice cream...