Saturday, June 29, 2013

Machine Picking Raspberries

We recently started picking our raspberries. The berries that we sell fresh are all hand picked because raspberries are extremely fragile. We have chosen to machine pick our raspberries for our frozen market because it save us money, and is far more efficient than hand picking. We have four acres of raspberries this year with new plantings that will increase the size to 10 acres.

In order to be the most efficient we have taken our blueberry picker and altered it a bit. We use Littau Harvesters and are lucky enough to have two of them when harvesting our 70+ acres of blueberries. To alter our machines to pick raspberries we exchanged the shaker heads and put in ones that would be more gentle when shaking the raspberry vines.

The picker process goes something like this: The machine straddles the row and then gently shakes the vines causing the the raspberries to fall and be caught in cups that line the sides, and are carried to the top of the machine where they are dumped onto another conveyer belt, where they make their way into a bin that is divided into 12 slots like placing 12 pints together. Those flats are then stacked in the waiting area on the machine and transferred to a truck where they are then taken to our holding room to be processed.

Another aspect of the picking process is that we choose to pick during the night. Nights are far cooler than the day, this helps maintain the continuity of the berry,  and preserves it. Whereas if we were picking during the heat of the day the raspberries would become very mushy and would not a be a good quality product.
One of our machine pickers

Blueberry shaker heads

Top conveyer belt

Top conveyer belt from the side, you can see the cup on the right side.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Training Blackberries

A lot of us have blackberries around our yards, or see them around town and are either annoyed that they wont leave our yards alone or we have them delicious and fight with everyone else to pick them. Well we have a small patch planted, and we train them up to get the most out of the plants.

Blackberries are part of the rose family, and we all know how thorny they can be! Without any kind of training the blackberry plant can grow to be anywhere between 10 and 12 feet in height. The varieties we grow are less thorny or no thorns so when we have to handle the plants or harvest our employees dont have to worry about getting pricked.

The process of training the blackberries is rather a simple process, here is a short over view of what goes into us setting up the field:

 We start off by planting the blackberry plants in straight rows, then install wooden posts along the row of blackberries. We then take wires and run them from post to post all the way down the row, once the blackberry's vines are long enough we tie them in a circular motion. This saves room and allows for maximum fruit to bloom and develop, and we get a delicious large crop.  After the harvest the canes, or vines, that produced fruit will die, and new growth will take its place, so every year we have to train the canes and get them ready for the next year.

In our field we have divided it into two different sections, and are rotating the crop. This way the blackberry plants will have a year to grow, and we can still have a good harvest.

This training processes is used for more than just blackberries, it can also be applied to raspberries, marrionvberries  or any other vine, and cane berry.

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