Farm Profile: Art’s Berry Farm

Jul 19 2015

By Aja Lippincott, CISA Staff

Published in CISA’s July Newsletter – Sign Up Here!20150622_140207

“Are you the blueberry king of East Longmeadow?” is a question Art Valonen, owner and operator of Art’s Berry Farm was surprised to hear as he answered his phone recently.  Art is a second generation fruit farmer and has become well known in the area for his high quality blueberries. His father, a full-time engineer at the time, started growing blueberries as a hobby on 1 ¼ acres of land. Despite being roped into doing chores on the farm since he was in elementary school, Art admits he has always had a deep interest in farming and enjoyed his daily chores. Eventually he took over and expanded his father’s pick-your-own blueberry operation as a teenager. In the early 70s he decided to plant strawberries and has been steadily building his berry operation since. All of Art’s hard work is obviously paying off. On a good year a single acre can yield about 3,000 quarts of strawberries!

But Art’s ambition doesn’t stop there. Due to an increase in the popularity of raspberries and frequent requests from his customers, Art has decided to add yet another small fruit to his farm’s offerings. Although the yield has been small so far, Art has been working on building up both his summer and fall varieties and hopes to get raspberries back on the pick-your-own offerings in the next couple years as the plants continue to establish themselves.

As you may have guessed, Art isn’t the only one working hard on the farm. With the help of his niece, a recent college graduate, last year the farm was able to start pick-your-own vegetables and flowers. You can find such crops as tomatoes, broccoli, corn and cucumbers; and flower varieties including zinnias, asters, gladiolas, cosmos and black-eyed-susans. Head straight to the field or buy cut flowers by the bouquet. And for those with a sweet tooth be sure to call the farm and order one of her delicious specialty pies or jams.

Although Art has been farming for almost 50 years there is always more to learn. For instance, Art recently discovered that the local deer population has developed quite a taste for green berries and actually ate about 25% of the farm’s green strawberries this year. The farm is changing in an attempt to adjust to the ebb and flow of consumer demand. Last year Art even built two new greenhouses to help house starter plants. But even with all these new crops adding to the farm’s profitability small fruit is what Art likes best and what he has the most experience with. He wants to make the farm a family-oriented destination and understands that pick-your-own is important to the community. Families in particular get more than just delicious fruit out of the experience. Parents love an excuse to get their kids out of the house to do something fun.

Be sure to call ahead for pick-your-own availability but plan to make a stop at Art’s Berry Farm this summer for a day of family fun. If you’re driving down Parker Street in East Longmeadow you can’t miss the roadside wagon colorfully adorned with a variety of pre-cut and potted flowers. Take a leisurely stroll through row upon row of berry bushes that extend all the way to the distant tree line and enjoy the sweetness of blueberry season this July at Art’s Berry Farm!

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