Should I grow blueberries, raspberries or hops
Hi, So I have some available acreage in the area and I am considering starting a small 10 to 20 acer farm. Cannot decide between Hops, Blueberries, and Raspberries. Any ideas on which corps do the best in this area. Also if harvesting is relatively easy? Any info would be helpful like is sad just starting out and in the research phase.
Blueberries require acidic soils with a pH of 5.5 or lower so if you soil pH is higher than that I would suggest another crop. Establishment costs are pretty high and it takes about 6 to 8 years to reach full production. Harvest is usually by hand or using a machine with fruit for the fresh market picked by hand. Insect control is critical. A new pest, the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is a small fruit fly which attacks berry fruit and can destroy the crop in a week if you do not control it.
Raspberries are probably the easiest to grow and require the least work. You will need hand harvest labor which is harder and harder to find. Pick your own used to be a viable option but SWD has made timing sprays and being open for U-pick hard. The best solution would be to grow the berries inside an enclosure covered with fine insect netting to exclude the fly.
Hops require construction of a hop yard trellis with 20 foot tall posts and wires for the binds to climb. Here is a link to search results for hops at MSU which includes links to costs and production tips.
Harvest is complex as the binds are harvested (cut down) and transported to a picker (a large stationary machine) where the cones are separated from the bines. So growing hops means you need a hop picker which is expensive and 20 acres would not justify the cost.
If there is a hop picker in the region I would talk to them about whether they would be able to process your hops