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Family Travels

Make sure to visit this wonderful Blueberry Farm

As you know, we are always looking for ways to encourage you to begin your own family business, so it thrills our hearts when we run across a family business operated by homeschoolers. Consequently, it is with great pleasure that we highlight the Price family’s Lost Branch Blueberry Farm in Kirksville Missouri.

Our family met the Prices at a birthday party given by the Saffa family for their son Samuel. When we found out about their blueberry farm, we asked them to write an article about their family vision, their multi-generational heritage, how they began their family business, and details about the business, explaining that we not only wanted to support their business but wanted to encourage our families to forge their own family businesses.

From other articles and blogs, you also know that for many, many years, our family has made their annual jaunt to a blueberry farm to pick gallons upon gallons of blueberries for our yearly consumption. Not only is the picking a tradition which we all enjoy, but the satisfaction of having an abundance of blueberries in our freezer for smoothies, blueberry muffins, pies, blueberry peach cobblers, and the like, is a blessing as well. For years we picked at a farm near Fredericktown until they closed. Then we picked with the Burns family at their favorite spot in Illinois. But this year, we will be beginning a new tradition of gathering our berries from a business owned by homeschoolers.

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LOST BRANCH BLUEBERRY FARM

Lost Branch Blueberry Farm is a you-pick blueberry farm owned and operated by our family, Robert, Kerri, Karise, Abriana, and Grant Price.

Directions to the farm: From Kirksville, MO., take Hwy. 6 East for about 6 miles. Turn left onto Lost Branch Way and drive half a mile. You will see our sign on the left.

Blueberry season, for us, usually runs from the middle of June through most of the month of July.

We do not spray pesticides on the berries.

Our hours and the price of the berries vary from year to year. For this information and picking updates you can go to our website: www.lostbranchblueberries.com

THE STORY OF LOST BRANCH BLUEBERRY FARM

Living on twenty-eight acres out in the lovely, green hills of northeast Missouri has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. Making a home in the country is a lot of work, but what could be better than plenty of room to work and play, peace and quiet, and being surrounded every day by God’s beautiful creations? However, my parents, Robert and Kerri, weren’t satisfied just to settle back and enjoy the country environment. Within them was a desire to glorify God with the gifts He had given them—to use the land entrusted to them in the best way possible. Additionally, my dad, although he has a full-time job in town, wanted to make a way to provide for his family that was home-based—something we could all work together at as a family.

The first two acres of land we owned here was graciously given to us by both my dad’s and mother’s parents, who each owned the land at different times. Because of their gift, my dad was able to build our house on our land twenty-two years ago and thus our family was established in our home that we have lived in ever since. We later bought twenty-six more acres from my mother’s dad. The problem that presented itself, however, was what could be done with the amount and the type of land that we had. It was too hilly, too small, and had too many trees for conventional farming. Besides, my parents felt convicted from the Scripture that, whatever they did with the land, they did not want to go into debt—which would be very difficult if we had to buy a lot of machinery and other expensive necessities.

Farming has been in our family for generations on my mother’s side. In fact, my brother Grant is the sixth generation to work on the Draper farm, now owned by my mother’s dad. And my grandparents on my dad’s side owned a greenhouse for a while where they and my dad worked with the plants together. Our very own family farm adventure really got started about seven years ago, in 2004. My parents have always enjoyed gardening in a small-scale way, and one of the experiments underway at that time was a few rather pathetic-looking blueberry plants. They had never borne fruit and were mainly useless. As my dad walked past them one day, however, God planted the seed of an idea in his mind. What about blueberries? They are delicious, with no thorns, easy to pick, process, and freeze, almost everyone likes them, and they are very high in antioxidant levels! No, surely not, he thought. No one grows blueberries up here—and for good reason! The soil is completely hostile to growing blueberries (as was obvious with our first few plants). In one way it seemed foolish to even think about growing them on a large scale. But he could not get blueberries out of his mind, so he started researching blueberry production…a lot. He took our family to spend some time at the farm of a large-scale blueberry farmer and we went to a fruit conference. He gathered information from the internet, read books, and did soil tests. After much research and prayer, he felt more than ever that having a you-pick blueberry farm is what we were to do as a family. Offering encouragement to him was his life verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5)

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So in the fall of 2004, my dad and Grant worked very hard making the soil as friendly as possible to blueberry plants. With a 100-year-old plow used by generations in my mother’s family, and pulled by her dad’s tractor, they broke soil into fourteen rows for our first planting of blueberries. Many tons of sand and manure had to be hauled in to amend the soil. Once spring 2005 came, we picked up the three hundred eighty new plants and went out on a drizzly morning to put them in the ground. Each hole had to be made by hand, and wet peat moss mixed in with the dirt, before settling the plant into its new home. Spring 2006 saw us all out in the field again, planting another nine hundred plants, and in fall 2007, along with the help of a few dedicated friends, we planted around four hundred more on another section of our land.

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2007 was also the year we acquired our first Katahdin lambs, from which we wanted to raise more lambs to sell, so that we could diversify our income from the farm. My granddad, over the past several years, had been teaching us about sheep through giving us the opportunity to care for his flock, so it seemed fairly natural to transition to having our own flock. And since sheep require much less land than cattle, we could have several animals on our property.

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In June 2008 we opened for business for the first time. Many people came out to pick their own berries and really seemed to enjoy it. We have been open each summer since then.

There have been many frustrations and challenges along the way: drought in 2006, a bad freeze in the spring of 2007 that killed off our first small crop of berries, and a mysterious yet voracious disease that killed off hundreds of plants before my dad could identify what the problem was and the most effective means to prevent it. Large numbers of birds descended upon us in 2009 and ate the last third of our crop. But these difficulties all contribute to making this experience a journey of faith…trusting that God knows best and that the farm is really His, not ours. The farm is a great tool that God is using to sanctify us and teach us to work together. We all have to do our part to make the farm function. Sometimes that means pitching in on the more routine tasks, like putting mulch on the rows; pulling weeds; worming, feeding, fencing, and checking on the sheep; and pruning the bushes. Sometimes it means working together to get the farm ready for customers during the summer, set up and take down the components of the “blueberry stand”, welcome and talk with customers, keep up the website and e-mail list, and make the business cards and signs we need. By putting the skills or knowledge each of us possesses together, we can run the farm more effectively.

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This past season God graciously granted us a very bountiful harvest. Some of the latest things we have been working on are maintaining the bushes that are already in the ground, preparing more rows for a future planting, beginning an asparagus patch which will hopefully offer you-pick asparagus in a couple years, working with our local farmer’s market, figuring out more ways to market the berries, and raising Katahdin lambs. We are amazed at how the Lord continues to use the farm to bring us opportunities to minister to others and reach out to our community. But it isn’t just through our family alone that God has brought this farm about—without the generosity, wisdom, prayers, and assistance from each of my grandparents, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today. The farm has now become the means for us all to contribute meaningfully to a common goal, work together as a family, and hopefully, bring glory to God. ~ Karise Price www.lostbranchblueberries.com