All About Kestrel Perch Berries at EVI
October 1, 2015 -
We’re here talking with Katie Creeger, owner of Kestrel Perch berries at EVI, to learn more about her farm.
LEARN: What is different about the way Kestrel Perch operates compared to other area berry farms?
KC: Well, when I first started Kestrel Perch about ten years ago, it was the only U-pick farm we knew of that functioned as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), with season memberships. I don’t think that’s still the case, since there’s been a lot of diversification among CSAs in the past ten years as growers discovered their own niches, but Kestrel Perch’s wide variety of berry crops is still pretty unique.
LEARN: What berries are available to CSA members, and do they get anything other than berries?
KC: Let’s see: strawberries, summer and fall red raspberries, red and black currants, gooseberries, blueberries, and elderberries. In addition to berries, I’ve also been starting off the share with jam made by the Youth Farm Project, who come and harvest all my extra red currants to make their signature red currant/ raspberry/jalapeno jam. Also this year, I offered little jars of very local honey that CSA members could take instead of some berries if they couldn’t keep up with the weekly picking. The honey comes from hives that are actually IN the berry field but belong to a local beekeeper.
LEARN: How long is your season?
KC: It varies slightly from year to year, but generally 12 or 13 weeks, maybe with a couple of gap weeks somewhere in there. Typically, the season starts with strawberries around the first week in June and goes through September with fall raspberries.
LEARN: Why did you decide to start Kestrel Perch?
KC: I’m a long-time and enthusiastic vegetable CSA member, and I’d watched several veggie CSAs struggle to include any small fruit other than strawberries. The timing of the work just makes that combination really difficult unless you’re a big operation that can divvy up the work and let some people specialize in fruit. I know from experience that spring is crazy when you’re trying to get seeds in the ground and prune berry bushes at the same time! Anyway, when we were considering moving to EcoVillage, I knew that West Haven Farm had the vegetables and tree fruits covered, so I figured I’d do small fruits kind of as a complement to what they offer.
LEARN: What do you see as the future of this U-pick fruit farm?
KC: Good question! I’m in my early sixties now, and I’d really like to find somebody to take over Kestrel Perch within, say, the next five years so I can retire. I hope the more productive and/or popular berries could stay – it’d be a real shame, for example, to get rid of the blueberry bushes just as they reach full size. (They’re slow growers.) The farm could remain all berries or include other specialty crops – herbs? Pastured poultry? I have feelers out there, but nothing solid yet, so please spread the word that I’m looking for a successor in business!