Grant Award: $6,000 – Expansion of Raspberries and Blueberries
“We have made a commitment to use this third generation land for agriculture and use it for our livelihood.” ~ Larry Stepp Jr.
The Stepps are expanding their successful berry operation with the addition of 1,500 raspberry plants and 230 blueberry plants, so that they can produce 9,000 pounds of raspberries and 2,400 blueberries annually. They are preparing the fields for planting, adding to their irrigation system and purchasing trellising.
Most of the new annual harvest is to be harvested during a period when demand greatly outweighs the supply. The Stepps currently have three acres of raspberries, 1.4 acres of blueberries and .5 acres of blackberries. In 2012, several customers, stores, food service companies and jam makers requested larger quantities, especially in the varieties that fruit early in the year.
Larry Jr. has farmed full-time since 2007 and has learned a lot about producing the best possible berries in that time. One of the trickiest parts of raspberry production is carefully handling the fragile fruits until they leave the farm. He said this year is a crucial time for him to expand to further establish the farm’s presence in the local marketplace.
“It is my vision to offer an opportunity to my two children of nine [Luke] and seven [Natalie] to continue to farm the land if they choose,” Larry Jr. said.
The Stepps’ berries were used in the 2012 WNC Chef’s Challenge as the secret ingredient for the finale at the Asheville Food and Wine Festival.