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US: Expansion of berry cultivation in North Carolina

Raspberry and blackberry production is ripening at a sharp pace in Henderson County, agricultural experts say, with the potential to add $30 million in crop receipts over the next three years.

Prior to 2011, there were about 85 acres of blackberries and raspberries being grown locally, said Mark Williams, executive director of Agribusiness Henderson County. Now there are about 188 acres, he said, a 121 percent increase that has raised farm revenues by $5.2 million.

"Including what I know about, we should be looking at adding another 500 acres in the course of the next three years," Williams said. "So by 2016, I'm projecting we'll have close to 700 acres of blackberries and raspberries."

With some berry farmers grossing $50,000 per acre, Williams estimates the county could gain "in the neighborhood of $30 million in crop receipts" just from blackberries and raspberries.

A major driver in that growth is the expansion of production by Reiter Affiliated Companies, which supplies berries to national berry distributor Driscoll's. Reiter-owned Sandy Ridge Berry Farms is currently farming about 65 of its 125 acres in Edneyville, said Production Manager Andy Brownlee.

"We've got pretty big growth planned," Brownlee said. "Within five years, we're hoping to develop 400 acres."

"This will take time and deliberation, but many signs are positive so far and we are very happy to have received a warm welcome from other growers in the area, farmworkers, as well as vendors and suppliers, support services, and people in the community in general," Maiman said.

The growth of berry farming over the next three to five years will benefit not just farmers, Williams said, but the trucking industry, packaging suppliers, fuel companies, insurance agents, those selling plastic and framework for greenhouses, owners of leased land or office space, "and the list goes on and on."

"So if we can get an increase of 700 acres, that's a tremendous economic boost for the county and its agricultural economy," he said.

Source: blueridgenow.com

Publication date: 4/9/2013


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