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Southern Ohio’s only blackberry farmer wants to make berry pickin’ fun again

This young fellow fits the definition of a satisfied customer after a visit to the B & D Berry farm.

It’s all about making family memories together – 

By Patricia Beech – 

Are you looking for a fun activity the whole family can do together? Try a day of berry picking at the B&D Berry Farm located at 1042 Inlow Avenue off Old State Rte. 32 just west of Peebles.
The 2 ½ acre berry patch has 1,000 thornless, Triple Crown blackberry bushes dripping with huge, sweet blackberries.
The owners, Rick and Rebecca Burke say they wanted their berry farm to be family-oriented business.
“That’s what it’s all about,” says Rick. “Seeing the little kids come back with purple faces is just fantastic. It’s good family fun, the memories parents are making with their kids is the key to this business.”
The Burks use no pesticides or chemicals on any of their berry plants. “It’s all Mother Nature, rain, and sunshine,” says Burke, who is determined to bring back the fun of berry picking.
“When we were kids we used to pick berries on my grandparents farm, that’s an experience most kids don’t get anymore,” he says. “So many young people have never picked berries before. I’ve had twenty-year old people come in and say I want to pick berries, how do you do it?”
Burke encourages all his customers to take photos of their berry picking experience and post them onto social media.
“You’ll see on our Facebook page all the pictures we’ve posted of children who have visited the farm, and we ask our customers to tag us when they post pictures.”
Burke believes he has definitely found his niche as a berry farmer.
“I’m a retired mailman and retired aircraft mechanic – never had a green thumb in my life, but I have the only ‘You Pick’ blackberry farm in southern Ohio,” he says. “If you draw a line across the state, from Columbus down, we’re the only one.”
Burke says he thoroughly researched the business before making a commitment.
“The risk factor was huge,” he says. “I used all my retirement money to start up, and it was expensive.”
He says he had a image of how the farm would look.
“When I talked to my wife, I said if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. I wanted this place to look good, I want it freshly mowed, with no weeds, and I wanted everything painted every two years.”

Rick Burke, co-owner of the B & D Berry Farm near Peebles, wants his business to be known as a family-oriented place, free to everyone.

That was seven years ago, and he now says, “business is great”, though they have hit a few speed bumps along the way. Three years ago they lost their entire crop to an early spring frost, and they had an unfruitful experience raising raspberries, and a bout with illness last year put them about a month behind schedule.
Despite those setbacks, Burke says the farm has had a positive impact on the local community.
“I wanted to build something, a place where you could bring your grandmother,” he says. “The first five rows of berries are set aside for the elderly so they don’t have to walk far, while young people are assigned to the far end of the patch.”
“This is food at its finest,” said customer Sarah Howard, who often brings her children to the farm. “A good, warm, juicy blackberry is amazing.”
Another customer, an elderly lady confined to a wheel chair told Burke, “I haven’t picked berries in 50 years.”
“It just melted my heart,” he said. “She had a wonderful time, and that’s typical here.”
The Burkes also host school groups, Scout groups, and FFA groups.
“We’re expecting a Girl Scout troop Saturday, and the whole troop will get a tour of the farm and then each will get to pick a pint of free berries.”
Children under five get a tiny half-pint basket which they also may fill at no cost.
“I want to give kids this experience so they can go home and tell their grandparents ‘look what I did’,” said Burke. “They have a blast, they love it, and it’s free.”
Burke’s wife Rebecca has developed the business from yet another angle.
She uses the blackberry leaves to create her own line of oils, facial creams, and soaps called Gray House Botanicals.
“There’s definitely more to berry farming then meets the eye,” says Burke.

 

 

The B&D Berry Farm opens mid-July,
Sunday – Saturday from 10-6 p.m.
For more information check out their page on Facebook
or call (937) 509-1327.

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