Just west of Dewart Lake on County Road 300 E in Kosciusko County sits the Blue Barn Berry Farm.
This three acre oasis is part of Don and Peggy Bucher’s property that was turned into a quaint, sustainable berry and produce farm in 2009.
Complete with a one acre pond, the farm hosts a myriad of events for all ages. Although the focus is fresh-picked berries, the farm includes a new farm market offering fresh produce from local organic farms, freshly made jams, jellies and honey (the honey is a combination of the farm’s own honey and a local farmer’s honey), fresh-popped kettle corn, its own Ambrosia super sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, birdhouses and farm supplies.
The farm also offers cooking classes for kids, canning and freezing classes for all ages and hosts special events like corporate retreats, birthday parties and even fairly large weddings. Recently, they placed a tent near the pond and hosted a 200-person wedding.
Daughter and co-owner Shanda Scheeren, along with mom, Peggy, manage the special events, plus schedule and conduct the classes.
Built in 2014, The Blue Barn is not only the farm centerpiece, but also houses the market and the Harvest Hall Event Center, which can host up to fifty people. Harvest Hall includes a full kitchen and a removable wall that opens to the north and overlooks the pond — making for a gorgeous backdrop for any meeting.
Peggy selected the farm’s blueberry plants to extend the produce’s availability through most of the summer. In 2009, she planted the first bushes, which started producing in 2012. The early producing bushes are Patriots, which provide berries in late June.
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July harvest comes from Blue Crop, August from Jersey and Elliot produces through Labor Day. There are approximately 1,000 bushes producing nearly 400 pounds of blueberries annually.
Taking full advantage of limited space, Peggy grows slicing tomatoes among the Elliot blueberry plants. Tomato varieties include Goliath, Big Boy and Big Mama, all of which are offered at the market. To avoid spraying, Peggy does not plant any heirloom tomatoes, which often require a boost while growing.
Then there is Blackberry Hill, where 320 blackberry bushes are producing huge, plump, ultra-sweet blackberries that are just now ready for picking. Some of the berries are reserved for jams and jellies for the market.
During the busy summer months, the U-Pick theme is family oriented. The market offers smoothies and ice cream and Peggy and Shanda created a nature hunt for kids where they hide items in pine trees and around the farm. Kids are well taken care of while adults do the picking. They plop pickers in front of a loaded bush, give you a bucket and stool and let you go.
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Pick as much as you want, because both types of berries keep for about a week in the refrigerator and can be frozen for months without losing quality. Regardless, nothing is better than freshly picked berries.
The farm’s long-term objective is to expand the variety, type and frequency of events. Expansion includes a pavilion between the barn and pond for larger events. They hope to schedule more weddings once the pavilion is complete in 2016.
Although they have mostly depended on loyal customers spreading the word about the farm, they plan more promotional materials in the future
This mother-daughter team is working well. Shanda even brings her daughter to work, adding a third generation. Combining their talents, they have made the Blue Barn Berry Farm a great family destination. Visitors can pick, learn, play, shop or just meander through the farm.
Hours vary seasonally, but what a great way to spend a day in Lake Country!
For more dispatches from the dining scene in Kosciusko County from Loren Shaum, subscribe to the Lake Country Escapades email newsletter.