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Published July 22, 2010, 08:00 AM

It’s raspberry time

With increased cancer rates and a growing outcry against processed, chemically-treated foods, homegrown farmers have found themselves in a popular position these days.

By: Nathan Kitzmann, DL-Online

PHOTOS BY BRIAN BASHAM

With increased cancer rates and a growing outcry against processed, chemically-treated foods, homegrown farmers have found themselves in a popular position these days.

Locally grown food can be healthier, better for the environment and — in many cases — cheaper than mass-produced food. Following are a few of the local home-grown options.

JB’s Raspberries

Catering to a small, word-of-mouth market, and growing exclusively organic berries, John and Brenda Seley — who own and operate JB’s Raspberries — epitomize the “small time growers” that have become popular.

And small is just how they like it.

“We do real well just right here,” said Brenda, explaining that they don’t sell their product to grocery stores, or even attend farmer’s markets.

Nevertheless, the Seleys are continually striving to make JB’s Raspberries — located between Detroit Lakes and Cormorant on County Road 15 — a better place.

“We’re always kind of expanding and keeping plenty planted every year,” Brenda said

“We’re always doing something to improve the farm.”

JB’s Raspberries was first conceived in the mid-1990s, and finally opened in 1999, after the plants had several years to grow to fruition.

The Seleys knew their raspberries, though, long before they began their own farm.

“I grew up on a raspberry farm,” said Brenda.

“I kind of hated it growing up, and now look what I’m doing!”

The Seleys offer several strains of berries throughout their five-acre operation.

The Red Summer Berry — the scarlet-colored kind most people associate with the word “raspberry” — is by far the most popular, but yellow and purple strains are also available.

Raspberries cost $2.50 per pint for “pick your own,” and $3.50 per pint for prepicked.

“We reserve orders, and we also have some on the stand,” said Brenda.

The raspberry season only lasts a few short weeks, so get them while you can.

“It always starts out slow, then they peak about five days after that,” said Brenda, explaining the typical seasonal cycle.

A late-spring frost destroyed some of the crop, and the weather hasn’t always meant optimal growing conditions, but a few setbacks haven’t kept the Seleys from having a successful season.

“It’s been a pretty fair year,” Brenda said.

Despite obstacles that nature may throw at you, she continued, “you’ve got to be in it for the long haul.”

Growing raspberries isn’t a full-time source of income for the Seleys, but it provides a healthy boost of extra finances and, more importantly, helps them get to better know their surrounding community.

“We have a lot of families, when they’re on their vacations they come over and pick raspberries,” said Brenda.

“It’s a great way to see the neighbors, too,” she added.

“It’s a fun business.”

JB’s Raspberries is located 4 miles south of Audubon on County Road 15.

To order raspberries or get more information, contact JB’s Raspberries at (218)-238-6192.

Gary’s Produce

Gary’s produce offers a variety of homegrown produce; including cucumbers, peppers, Italian poke beans, and peas.

And, though it isn’t officially certified so, it’s completely organic.

Gary Senske — the owner and operator of Gary’s Produce — explained that getting certified would entail jumping through too many hoops, but that he doesn’t use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

“I do a good job of balancing my soil,” Senske said.

Senske started his operation after retiring as head basketball coach for the University of Minnesota.

He initially tried retiring for good, but found that trying to be inactive after years of 60-hour weeks was taking a toll on his psyche.

“I came around here and I thought ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’ve got to do something,” Senske said.

“That’s stress,” he added.

He hatched the idea of growing organic, homegrown food seven years ago, after a health scare convinced him he needed to get more exercise and change his diet.

“I went in to a doctor, and he said: ‘we have some numbers to talk about,” Senske explained.

He accomplished both goals by raising organic produce, something he continues to enjoy to this day.

“It’s just rather fun and interesting and exciting,” Senske said.

“It’s profitable, but I mainly just do it to remain in contact with other individuals.”

Senske continually expands his small farm, which includes two greenhouses and several large gardens.

“I just keep adding on,” he said.

For what he doesn’t have the time or resources to grow, he relies on neighbors, to make sure his community is able to host a wide variety of homegrown options.

“I utilize other individuals to provide me with what I don’t have, and it works just fine,” he said.

Gary’s Produce is located about a mile north of Perham on Otter Tail County Road 8.

It will remain open until the beginning of October.

Senske can be reached at (218)-841-7660.

Other Choices

There are many other homegrown options in the Becker County area.

The Lakes Area Farmers Market at Detroit Lakes City Park offers a wide array of produce and homemade food articles. It’s open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Maple Hills Orchard in Frazee offers apples, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn, and a variety of other food.

The Orchard will remain open on weekends until October, or weekdays by appointment.

Call Maple Hills at (218)-844-5445.

Jake’s Syrups and Natural Products is located in Vergas, and offers maple syrup straight out of local trees, jellies and jams, as well as numerous other natural food items.

Call Jake’s at (218)—863-2508.

Lake Ida Apple Farm, located in Lake Park, offers apples you can pick yourself, or order pre-picked should you wish.

In addition to apples, Lake Ida’s offers asparagus, pumpkins, rhubarb, and squash.

Lake Ida’s is open from August 15 to November 10, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Call (218)-532-3025 for more information.

Check out the state-run Minnesota Grown website for information on natural food providers in this area or across the state.

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