New Florence farm offers berry picking
Owners of the Berry Patch, Scott and Brenda Carter, have offered a unique investment opportunity to patrons of their business and berry lovers from far and wide have taken them up on it.
In an effort to expand the family-owned and operated business, the New Florence couple is seeking individuals or groups interested in temporarily investing in the Berry Patch.
“We're offering the same delicious berry goodness that we've always offered but we'd like to see if the public is willing to change the payment terms a bit to help us take our next big step,” said Brenda Carter.
In return, investors will receive discounted products and a variety of perks, including the opportunity to hand-pick their own berries on the farm.
One local family who said they were happy to invest is the Vogelsangs of Rector.
“We knew this was the type of business we wanted to support,” said Bryan Vogelsang.
Vogelsang said the fresh produce is something his family would be purchasing anyway and the investment allows them the opportunity to teach 4-year-old Lucy about eating healthy food.
“This is a great experience for her to learn where good food comes from,” said Jessica Vogelsang.
Vogelsang said she has always been intrigued by micro-lending, the extension of small loans in an effort to support entrepreneurship.
“It's such a great way for a community to support local businesses,” she said.
The Carters plan to use investments to construct a barn/cafe on their property. The building would enable them to offer a variety of services to the public.
Brenda Carter envisions cooking classes, yoga sessions and children's activities taking place on her 30-acre berry farm. Dining, shopping and catered events will also be available.
Carter said she plans to offer outdoor seating to show off the wooded beauty that surrounds the farm.
Lenders will be issued a member card with an identification number to access a Berry Patch account — which will accrue $25 per month over the course of a 3-year period until the loan is repaid.
Patrons can use the house credit right away to purchase products such as fresh berries and homemade jams and jellies, or save up for larger purchases. Additionally, a berry account provides members a 10-percent discount on purchases up to $1,000.
“We've received tremendous support,” said Carter. “Our local supporters really seem to appreciate being able to come here to pick their own berries.”
Carter said about ¼ of the cost needed to construct the barn has already been raised.
The Carters have been selling fresh-picked berries, baked goods, and jams and jellies since 2004 — first at the Ligonier Country Market and now additionally at the Berry Patch cafe located inside the Ligonier Valley YMCA.
While the cafe's focus is on smoothies, Carter said having kitchen access has allowed her to expand her menu and offer different food choices. She currently carries fresh, healthy breakfast and lunch options utilizing berries from the farm, and a variety of snacks.
“I love offering healthy food choices,” Brenda Carter said.
When the Carters purchased their berry farm a decade ago, it contained only blueberry bushes. Through the years the have added black berries, raspberries and elderberries.
“It really has been a family project,” said Scott Carter.
Along with son Shane, the Carters hand-pick all the berries. The fruit is never chemically treated and they try their best to work with the natural predators they encounter.
“We figure about 1⁄3 of every crop is for the critters,” Scott said.
With no additives or preservatives used in preparing the food, the message is clear — healthy food options can be both affordable and delicious.
“We want people to know that they can buy good, natural food and not break the bank,” Scott Carter said.
A lot of effort goes into growing the perfect berry, including water control and getting the correct Ph level in the soil. Scott mulches pine needles into the dirt to regulate the level.
“Entomology is a big part in what we're doing here,” he said. “We work with nature to grow the best berries we can.”
A part of that process includes creating habitats where ‘good' insects — such as carpenter bees and praying mantises — can thrive.
The Carters are passionate about their product and living a healthy, natural lifestyle.
They look forward to the addition that will allow them to share some of that passion with the community.
“We just love all the different aspects of it,” Brenda Carter said. “The creating and making and meeting such great and wonderful people. We're having a ball.”
The Carters said they appreciate any support in their endeavors.
To learn more about the Berry Patch investment plan, visit the Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.