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Birds and Berries: Putting up Nets at Honeyberry Farm

Bernis Ingvaldson and her husband Jim started Honeyberry Farm on their 2 1/2 acre home place 7 years ago. They started building their log home in 2004 and moved in in 2oo5. In the winter of 2010 Bernis saw a new blue-colored fruit in a gardening magazine, called honeyberry. She tasted them in Canada. Soon she and Jim had planted an acre of honeyberries and some other fruit.

Bernis says, "It's the oddest looking berry you've probably ever seen in your life. Every honeyberry has its own shape. Russian varieties are more long and tubular. Pure Japanese varieties are pretty round, some of them. Some of them end up looking like little hearts or teardrops. It seems like every honeyberry has its own personality and its own flavor."

What do they taste like? "My favorite answer," Bernis says, "you take all your favorite berries, take your grapes and your blueberries and your raspberries and whatever else you like and throw 'em in the blender, mix 'em up, and out comes this mystery berry flavor you're not sure quite what it is but it tastes delicious!"

For the first three years, the berries were ok. Then came the birds, especially cedar waxwings. "Word got out," Bernis said. "If we wouldn't have netted the berries they would have cleaned out the whole acre."

Honeyberry Farm uses three netting systems. There is overhead netting, where nets are laid over a sturdy frame with corner posts and wires overhead. It's challenging to construct but great to walk in and out under the canopy. For this, they use aSmartnet System from OESCO.

Bernis and Jim also use 17' X 100' draped netting from a Minnesota company called Plantra. Each section costs about $75. Bernis describes it as light and diamond-shaped and recommends that home gardeners drape it over and secure it "or the birds will find a way to lift the net and walk underneath."

The third type of netting used at Honeyberry Farm is a tree bag. "It's good if you have a large tree," Bernis explained. The bags are 12 X 12 X 12 and are available from OESCO.

When the nets were first installed the birds initially persisted in trying to get in.  Some got caught and many had to be released. In time though, they learned to stay away and now they seldom try to eat the fruit. As Bernis says, "There are options out there."

Honeyberry Farm is a U-Pick operation that is located about a mile and a half SE of Bagley. They're open Sunday to Friday, late June through late September, 9 am to 6 pm and evenings by appointment. Pickers are encouraged to bring their own pails, and the farm accepts pail donations. They also offer "pick and share," a 50/50 split of berries with the farm for people who would like to exchange labor for berries.

The full interview with Bernis Ingvaldson is below.

Maggie is a rural public radio guru; someone who can get you through both minor jams and near catastrophes and still come out ahead of the game. She pens our grants, reports to the Board of Directors and helps guide our station into the dawn of a new era. Maggie is a locavore to the max (as evidenced on Wednesday mornings), brings in months’ worth of kale each fall, has heat on in her office 12 months a year, and drinks coffee out of a plastic 1987 KAXE mug every day. Doting parents and grandparents, she and her husband Dennis live in the asphalt jungle of East Nary.