Keeping it simple. Berries and bread and…

NARBA’s current featured recipe,  for Blackberry-Almond Bruschetta, is not very complicated as recipes go. Not a lot of ingredients, and simple steps. And it’s very flexible: You can use fresh or frozen berries. You can use any kind of French bread. You can use raspberries OR blackberries (or substitute peaches or strawberries). And you could probably substitute vanilla for almond extract, and walnuts or pecans for the sliced almonds and end up with something pretty yummy. That’s the kind of recipe I like.

But even simpler is what I had for breakfast recently: bagels with cream cheese and a handful of fresh wild blackberries pressed into the cream cheese. It never hurt that I was on vacation on the Olympic Peninsula, in a rustic cottage overlooking a bay, and that I had just picked the blackberries, dead ripe and very sweet. It was a spur-of-the-moment invention (and the inspiration for then choosing the Bruschetta for our featured recipe).  I will be trying it again at home — and it may be bagels and blackberries or maybe some other variation.


It reminded me of my all-time favorite, the Raspberry Jam Sandwich. No, it’s not what you think, and I don’t have a picture. I learned about it from a grower years ago. As she described it: You take two pieces of bread, put a thick layer of raspberries on one of them, and then jam the other piece of bread on top.

As you can imagine, it is great for kids to make themselves.  It works best with a soft white bread, and variations include sprinkling sugar on the berries, drizzling on honey, and/or spreading a layer of cream cheese or  before adding the berries. Or marshmallow spread, or ricotta. Or maybe peanut butter? Or Nutella– I’ve seen a picture for that. Or, an open-face version with whipped cream. Kids would go crazy with that one! 


Our New Raspberry & Blackberry Nursery List

Looking for a source of raspberry or blackberry plants? Fall is the time to start thinking what you want and place your order. Planting time depends where you live but is usually in the spring (or winter if you live in the South)

NARBA has recently updated its list of member nurseries selling raspberry and blackberry plants and posted it to this website. It includes contact information for the nurseries, the types of plants (bare root, plugs, roots, etc.) that they sell, and the specific varieties they offer. It also indicates if they sell  to commercial growers, home gardeners, wholesale to retailers, or a combination of these. Find the list here. 

Where do your berries come from?

Eat those berries! The wonders of our modern food system mean that raspberries and blackberries are available in the store virtually year-round — both in the produce department and as frozen berries. This makes it possible to enjoy their flavor and health benefits every day of the year.

Did you know:

  • California is the biggest producer of fresh raspberries in the U.S.
  • Washington state is the largest producer of raspberries for freezing, as Oregon is for blackberries
  • More than 75% of fresh blackberries consumed in the U.S. are grown in Mexico
  • There is increasing fresh market blackberry production in California and the Southeast

In addition to these large centers of production, there are lots of farms selling locally in season. You can seek them out — whether you pick your own at the farm, pick some up at a roadside stand, or get them at the store. Consumer requests for local berries help encourage stores to stock them.

Read the labels. Pay attention to the season, to the weather. Learn when local produce is ripe and where you can get local raspberries and blackberries (and strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn, tomatoes…). Grow a garden of your own. There are so many benefits to becoming an educated consumer who understands the interplay of plants, weather, climate, geography, economics, and all the other factors that make up our food system.

You can find NARBA member growers through our “Find a Farm” directory. Other sources with information about local farms and farm products are cooperative extension and many other online directories.  For more information about picking your own berries, nutrition benefits, and growing your own, click here.

Grown in the United States, probably California

Grown in Michigan– on-farm sales, no label!

Grown in Florida- the earliest picking in Eastern US

On the farm in Mexico — and ready for export to the U.S.

Virginia berries for local sale

A Small Grower’s Perspective on Large Scale Mexican Caneberry Production


Pierson Geyer on the tour

By Pierson Geyer, NARBA Vice President, Agriberry Farm & CSA, Hanover, VA

When I arrived in Guadalajara the day before our three-day tour of Mexican caneberry production, the differences were what jumped out at me immediately. A foreign language bubbled all around me, with sporadic word  recognition in a sea of confusion. A billboard displayed three burgers for $29 at McDonald’s. Nearly every home, business, and industrial area had some level of security fence around it, ranging from razor wire to spikes in clay. At our first farm stop, I marveled that they could grow blackberries in a climate that never had anything resembling our winters and that high bush blueberries could be producing commercial yields only nine months after being planted. With so many apparent differences I was nervous about how much overlap in knowledge I would find during the tour. 

These concerns started to melt away as I got to ask questions of the various tour hosts through our excellent translator. I assumed that since the U.S. sourced such a dense immigrant labor population from this country they surely had plenty of trained and engaged workers at all the farms in the area. Not so — labor was one of the chief concerns expressed at many of the farms we visited. Getting the word out and having reliable bodies in the field was a big issue. Most farms had a dedicated crew that formed the core of their labor but when harvest was going strong it was tough. Many used piece-rate payment systems that pay based on how many flats or buckets harvested instead of an hourly wage. Because of this, farms would struggle with workers leaving unannounced as soon as a neighboring farm hit their peak production period, when buckets could more easily be filled. Farmers also said that over the last decade or so they noticed less and less motivation to work in the fields, which seems to be a common trend stateside as well.

Each and every farm we visited had a clear food safety plan in the place. Signs for no eating or smoking in production areas, reminders to wash hands before shifts, safety warnings, and hairnets were commonplace at every stop. I would say the commitment to food safety was even higher than at many farms I have visited in the U.S. Since nearly all of their sales are exports they want to be sure they are in compliance with all international food safety standards. I was very impressed with the level of visibility of food safety and quality control signs. Every farm used a quality control station to grade fruit after harvest. These stations were in full shade and they generally had regular pick-ups from a refrigerated truck on a 30 minute lap. With the shelf life expectation they had for these berries maintaining a good cold chain was key. All of these things had a similar analog back on my farm and I’m sure many other farms around the country.

While I wasn’t used to seeing a 60-acre raspberry farm — in Virginia you are lucky to see more than an acre anywhere — or blackberries in full production in mid-February, I realized that we were all just using  different languages to talk about the same things. Mexican producers faced labor challenges, SWD pressure, and food safety concerns; farmers were mindful of their yields; and everyone was interested in the successes and challenges facing others in this industry. The culture of learning from one another permeated the event, including among those of us in the vans. At every stop we were met with friendly faces and informative presentations regarding their systems, hoping to get feedback while showcasing a high commitment to quality. 

Getting Excited about Going to Mexico…

Now that a number of registrations are in, this tour is looking even better, as it brings together people from so many different parts of our industry– for example, growers from Michigan, California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, researchers from large berry companies, folks from companies based in Mexico… and maybe you?   What a great networking opportunity, even before we look out the window of the van or set foot on a farm.

Host for this tour is Aneberries, the Mexican natinal organization of berry exporters. Dates are February 21-24. And, we’ve been able to extend registration beyond the original deadline of December 30– we’ve no made our commitments on vans and still have some spaces left.

Sign up now! Registration is now quite limited, and on a first-come basis.

Visit the Tour webpage here.

Click here to download and print tour information and the registration form.  

Raspberry production

Raspberry production

Supporting Research: A Request for Proposals

There are many issues facing raspberry and blackberry production today, from invasive pests to stubborn, persistent soil diseases — and many opportunities to expland our production areas, improve fruit quality, and identify the specific health benefits of our berries. Research plays a vital role in developing solutions, supporting the sustainability of caneberry farms across the North America, and bringing our healthful berries to consumers.

The North American Bramble Growers Foundation is now seeking proposals for funding for 2017. The deadline for proposals is December 21, 2016. See the Request for Proposals.

The Foundation is a tax-exempt, charitable 501(c)(3) organization adjunct to the North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association (formerly North American Bramble Growers Association, or NABGA). It was chartered in August, 1998 to facilitate NABGA’s ability to receive donations and make grants to fund bramble research. As of 2016, the Foundation has granted a total of $219,849 to 89 projects at universities in the U.S. and Canada and the USDA research centers.

Learn more about the Foundation here.  


This tent is being used to monitor movement of Spotted Wing Drosophila flies into and out of a blackberry field

Looking forward to our conference!

We’r looking forward to bringing people from all over together at our conference in Grand Rapids —  conferences like this are a great opportunity to learn from experts, share experiences, and develop connections. Meeting with the North American Strawberry Association and the Great Lakes Expo increases the synergy and excitement, as well. You can find the program schedule and registration information here

Here are some of the companies that have already signed up to sponsor this meeting: Agri-Starts, Nourse Farms, Giumarra International Berry, Cravo Equipment, Crown Nursery, and GW Allen Nursery. We thank them for their support.  And these companies have signed on as exhibitors: Indiana Berry & Plant Company, Magnolia Gardens Nursery, Haygrove Tunnels, Berry Hill Irrigation, UCP Group, and Wire and Cable Specialties. More exhibitors and sponsors are expected!


Attendees networking over berries, baked goods, and coffee at a previous NARBA conference.

Conference Sneak Preview

We’re getting close to finalizing the program for our conference in Grand Rapids. Here’s some of what — and who– you can expect.

  • Grower presentations by Gary Bardenhagen (MI), Fred Koenigshof (MI), and Kevin Edberg (MN).
  • Grower panel discussions on organic production, raising berries in tunnels, blackberry production in cold climates, and smartphone apps.
  • Practical, focused workshops on “Getting Started in Raspberries and Blackberries” and on “Make Your Own Food Safety Plan: Right here and now”  The beginners workshop will be led by Marvin Pritts (Cornell) and Eric Hanson (MSU)
  • Blackberry breeder John Clark (Arkansas), giving TWO talks.
  • A raspberry variety update by Nate Nourse, Nourse Farms.
  • Up-to-date information on SWD and diseases, presented by Rufus Isaacs (MSU), Hannah Burrack (NCSU) and Annemiek Schilder (MSU), 
  • A whole track of sessions focusing on tunnel production
  • Networking and discussion opportunities, including an evening hospitality room and an evening roundtable on production topics.
  • Lots of non-caneberry sessions to choose from, too: strawberry sessions from our partner NASGA, and a full Great Lakes Expo of sessions on vegetables, marketing, food safety, management, and more.

Watch for the full program and registration materials in September.

Visiting over breakfast at the 2015 NARBA Conference in Arkansas

Visiting over breakfast at the 2015 NARBA Conference in Arkansas


Inviting sponsors and exhibitors for our conference in December

As we work on developing the program for our joint meeting with the North American Strawberry Growers Association at the Great Lakes Expo, in December 2016 in Michigan, it’s time to also begin to line up sponsors and exhibitors for this meeting.  Sponsors and exhibitors make it possible to keep the registration fees low. And the leadership.  products ,and services they offer are an integral part of the conference. 

If  you are interested in learning more about signing on as a sponsor or exhibitor, see our 2016 Berry Conference Sponsor & Exhibitor Information

To see a list of sponsors from our most recent meeting, click here. If you want to suggest a potential sponsor or exhibitor we should contact, contact NARBA!

Naturipe Farm was the Grand Sponsor of our most recent conference.  Here Naturipe's Scott Norman talks with NARBA's Executive Secretary Debby Wechsler... and was on the phone at the same time.. He never stopped networking the whole time.

Naturipe Farms was the Grand Sponsor of our most recent conference. Here Naturipe’s Scott Norman talks with NARBA’s Executive Secretary Debby Wechsler… and was on the phone at the same time. He never stopped networking the whole time he was there.


Berry Pricing Survey

berrieswithsigncroppedandedited2 copy

NARBA is surveying growers about what they will charge for their berries in 2016, focusing on pick-your-own and direct-market retail (e.g. farmers markets, on-farm stands, farm stores). It can be very useful — and interesting– to know what others are charging in your region and around the country, and we are also able to track trends. We will share the report with our members and with all non-member growers who participate. If you want the link to the survey for yourself or growers you know, please email NARBA. Please respond by Friday, June 3.

NABG Research Foundation Awards

The North American Bramble Growers Foundation has made its awards for 2016 funding. The Foundation will give a total of $16,862 to seven projects.You can see the 2016 Funding Awards here. 

The total of all requests to the Foundation this year was $36,742 — about a 40% increase over the previous year’s total. We theorize that this total was higher for two reasons: One is that the Foundation is becoming better known in the research community. The other is that state and federal research dollars grow ever more difficult to obtain, so that independent funding from organizations such as the Foundation is increasingly needed. 

Three of the projects are for Spotted Wing Drosophila research, reflecting this pest’s ongoing status as the highest priority research need. Several projects received partial funding  — even small grants from the Foundation show support within the grower community and can help leverage other sources of funding.

Learn more about the Foundation here. You will also be able to see reports from projects funded by the Foundation in previous years.  The Foundation receives proposals in December and usually makes its awards early the following year.


Eric Hanson, Michigan State University, was funded for work with high tunnel raspberry production in 2015.


Our Next Conference


We are excited to announce that we will be holding our next conference jointly with the North American Strawberry Association We will be meeting in association with the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market Expo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is a highly regarded regional meeting that attracts more than 4000 participants and 450 exhibitors. It is one of the largest trade shows for fruit and vegetable growers, greenhouse growers and farm marketers in North America!

Because the Great Lakes Expo is held in December, we will actually have TWO conferences in one calendar year — this December meeting will replace our Winter 2017 conference, which would typically be held in January or February. (In 2018, we’ll get back on schedule. 

If there is any possibility that you will attend this meeting in Grand Rapids, we encourage you to make hotel reservations immediately. The conference room blocks tend to fill up by summertime. Click here for hotel information. Rooms may be cancelled until November 9 with no penalty in the most convenient hotels; those a bit further away may offer later cancellation dates.

Here is our overall schedule to help you make your plans:

  • Sunday, Dec. 4: Opening Reception at the Amway Grand Hotel.
  • Monday, Dec. 5: Joint conference with NASGA, sessions on both strawberry and caneberry topics
  • Tuesday, Dec. 6: Strawberry and Caneberry tracks are part of the Great Lakes Expo in the DeVos Convention Center. Trade show and many other sessions as well.
  • Wednesday and Thursday, Dec 7-8: The Great Lakes Expo continues, with the trade show and lots of other sessions, but no strawberry or caneberry-specific sessions. If  you register for our Berry Conference, Monday and Tuesday, you will be able to attend these days well.

We last met with NASGA in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, and we last met in Grand Rapids in 2008.

Information on the program, registration fees, etc. will be posted as soon as it is available.


Presenters, exhibitors, participants: look who’s coming to our conference!

With the conference only a few weeks away, it is very exciting to see the variety of people, companies, and institutions participating. We know that bringing all these folks together is part of what makes a conference like this special.

Bernadine Strik, Oregon State University

Bernadine Strik, Oregon State University

We’ve got a great lineup of presenters for the conference. Here are just a few of them:

  • Bernadine Strik, Oregon State University,highly respected across the nation for her expertise nutritional management of blackberries and raspberries
  • Berry breeder Courtney Weber, Cornell University, who will update us on varieties and tackle the topic of raspberry flavor.
  • Sonny Ramaswami, Director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, who will talk about drones and other exciting new high tech developments for “smart farming”  
  • Entomologists Hannah Burrack from NCSU, Tracey Leskey from USDA, and Doug Pfeiffer from VA Tech talking about SWD
  • Long-time grower and extension specialist Charlie O’Dell, now retired, reflecting on “A Lifetime in Berries”
  • From Michigan, Eric Hanson talking about greenhouse production and Katherine Lindell talking about controlling bird damage.

Here’s our current list of exhibitors. Many of these are also conference sponsors.

  • AgBioChem – pest & disease controls
  • AgriStarts – berry plantsTrellis Systems
  • Berry Hill Irrigation – drip irrigation
  • Giumarra – berry marketing
  • Magnolia Gardens Nursery – berry plants
  • Multisorb Tachnologies – packaging techology
  • North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association
  • Naturipe Farms – berry marketing
  • North Bay– berry marketing
  • Nourse Farms – berry plants
  • Priva North America – irrigation management
  • Rimol Greenhouse Systems
  • Rockford Package Supply — packaging
  • Southern SARE – sustainable agriculture research & education
  • Sun Belle Inc. – berry marketing
  • Trellis Growing Systems – modular trellising
  • USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service
  • Virginia Berry Growers Association
  • Virginia Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer services
  • Virginia Farm Bureau Federation
  • Virginia State University
  • VirtualOne – traceability/labor management software

And attendees are coming from near and far. From Mexico and Canada. From California, Oregon, North Dakota, Texas. From Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Arkansas. From the Carolinas, Georgia, and Maryland. And, of course, from Virginia! Farthest away would be a researcher from China who is trying to work out his visa so he can come. Some are long-time growers and members of NARBA, some are first-time growers looking to learn the basics and meet suppliers. Some aren’t growers at all, but play other roles in the caneberry world. Welcome all!

Visiting over breakfast at the 2015 NARBA Conference in Arkansas

Visiting over breakfast at the 2015 NARBA Conference in Arkansas

Support Research with your Donation

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Reporting on NABGRF funded research at a field day in North Carolina.

This is a giving time of year– and many of us pull out our checkbooks and give to the causes that matter to us. We’d like to invite you to add another to your list: the North American Bramble Growers Research Foundation.

With ever-increasog competition for scarce federal funds, foundations like ours can step up and make a difference. And all of us who work in the caneberry industry — indeed, all those who enjoy having delicious raspberries and blackberries to eat — must help support the research that improves both the plants we grow and how we raise them. 

All donations, large or small, are much appreciated. Donate online here, or send a check to NABGRF, 197 Spring Creek Road, Pittsboro, NC 27312.

All donations are fully tax-deductible.

Our new 2015-2016 Caneberry Nursery List


NARBA’s annual Caneberry Nursery List lists all our member nurseries — businesses who raise and supply raspberry and blackberry plants to commercial growers, home gardeners, and other nurseries or garden centers. It includes a table of the different varieties or cultivars they currently offer for sale. We also ask each nursery what type of plants they have. These include micropropagated plug plants, bareroot canes, or root pieces. 

Young plant from a bare root cane

Young plant from a bare root cane

If you are contemplating ordering plants, be sure to research what grows well in your region. Consider your purpose for the berries– whether local market, wholesale, or home garden. Talk to other growers and consult extension recommendations. You will also find our nursery members very knowledgeable about what they sell. And order early to assure that what you want is available.

We compile the list each fall as a service to both sellers and buyers. 


Make Plans to Attend Our 2016 Conference.

Mark your calendar for March 1-4, 2016. We’re excited to be having our conference in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the premier living history destinations in the country. Just step outside the conference hotel, walk up the block, and see colonial-era buildings, talk to craftspeople, view the gardens, and attend historical presentations.

The conference opens with a reception on March 1. Then, We’ve got a great tour planned for March 2. March 3-4 feature a full program of educational sessions, grower discussions, a trade show, and opportunities to network.

See the Conference Overview for more details and info on travel and making hotel reservations.You’ll be able to register for the conference soon.

Watch a welcome from Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry!

NARBA has a new website!

ipadclipartWelcome to NARBA’s new website. We have been working on this for many months. This new responsive design makes it more accessible from mobile phones and tablet computers. It includes the same information for consumers, growers, and our members as our old website — and more, including the option of secure online processing of memberships and conference registration.

It’s also a great platform for our collection of over 100 recipes (and more coming).

We’re still learning how to use this new platform, but watch for many new features and lots of new information!  If you see problems or have suggestions, please let us know.

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