“Berry-licious” Picking in Lake Country 

WRITTEN BY TENLEE LUND | PHOTOGRAPHED BY JEFF COLLINS 

WARM SUNSHINE, FRESH AIR, PLENTY OF WATER—the things that make this area enjoyable for people also make it perfect for growing one of nature’s most perfect foods—blueberries. The tasty berries are packed with antioxidants, low in calories, and versatile enough for baking, topping your cereal, or just popping in your mouth.

The best part is you can pick your own right here in Lake Country. Plan a trip to one of our several nearby berry patches and spend a delightful day outdoors with the family. It’s fun for all ages.

Jake and Scout’s Berry Farm

Take a drive on Crow Wing County 29 west of Nisswa and you’ll discover this beautiful oasis. Rolling country views stretch in all directions. Multitudes of flowers add color and also attract bees for pollination. The patio offers a place to sit and take it all in.

This relaxing setting is the creation of Lise Herren and her husband, Dan. They purchased a former cow pasture and, in 2009, planted thirty-five rows of blueberries. The farm, named for the golden retrievers the Herrens had at the time, became Lise’s retirement project and expanded over time to include asparagus, raspberries, and cherries.

“I retired early from my corporate job,” she explained. “I wanted to do something on my own, something outdoors and physical where I could bring my dogs to work with me.”

Although Lise has always loved gardening and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture economics, it was a challenge to get the farm established. They planted 1,750 blueberry bushes in 2011, knowing it would be three years before they could harvest any berries from them. They opened to the public in 2014. Then came the devastating winter of 2015.

“I could tell the bushes were brown and there wasn’t any sign of growth. I could touch the buds and they would crumble in my fingers,” remembered Lise. “Fortunately, most of the plants didn’t die.”

The farm remained closed that year. They purchased row covers to protect the bushes from winter kill, only to have voles and mice move in and damage the plants. Since Lise uses no poisons, she’s now settled on putting row covers on alternate rows and coping with losses from winter kill and rodents.

But the hard work and expense are all worth it when the people come. Although Lise enjoys the solitary work in the spring and fall, she said, “It’s so nice when people come out here in the summer, to see them enjoying the fruits of our labor.”

Pine Winder Blueberries

Just northwest of Pine River on 36th Avenue Southwest is Pine Winder Blueberries, owned by Donna and Bruce Winder.

“I’ve always wanted to work on a farm,” said Bruce. “I was brought up in New York City, but I have a lot of relatives in Iowa and I always wanted to try farming. Donna’s been very patient with me.”

Like most self-taught folks, the Winders’ adventure in farming has evolved over the years. They started by raising asparagus and running a small hog farm. They knew the asparagus would only last about ten years so they added strawberries, which proved to be too labor-intensive. Eventually they went to blueberries.

As Donna explained, “Back in 1986 the University of Minnesota had just developed a new cultivar called Northblue. We were one of the first in the state to start growing them.”

The Winders now have a little over an acre of blueberries. “The bushes are about waist high and we have five-gallon buckets that people can sit on to pick. It’s comfortable, you don’t have to get down on the ground, and we keep the grass mowed between the rows. It’s a very pleasant atmosphere.”

They never use herbicides or pesticides, which they credit for keeping some of their longtime repeat customers. They have also developed a special family friendly experience for their visitors, many of whom have also become friends.

“It’s fun and we want it to be enjoyable. We have customers who have been with us since we started,” says Donna. “We’ve talked about retiring but we have people begging us not to.”

Brambling Rows Berry Farm

South of Brainerd in St. Mathias Township, you’ll find Brambling Rows Berry Farm. Ruth and John Jansen bought forty acres in 1994 and currently have almost six acres under cultivation, where they offer pick-your-own blueberries, raspberries, and grapes.

Both Ruth and John grew up on dairy farms, and both worked at the Potlatch paper mill. When they knew the mill was closing, they needed to develop another business.

“I wanted to farm right out of high school,” said John, so given this opportunity, they started a berry breeding farm. “We’ve bred our own purple raspberries, black raspberries, and I’ve done some grapes, some apples, and many different kinds of tomatoes. We’ve developed our own strain of lettuce that doesn’t grow anyplace else in the world.”

Ruth explained that they developed the pick-your-own berry business to support the breeding programs. She said their season “starts around the Fourth of July and we pretty much have something going on until a hard frost.” People visit from all over the country. One woman comes from Mississippi to get black raspberry jam because she can’t buy it at home.

As Ruth said, “We get a lot of families with little ones and they’re fantastic little pickers. They’re about the right height to find the berries hidden in the leaves. A lot of them out-pick their moms. I love seeing the joy in their faces. They have such a good time and they learn so much.” 

What’s a honeyberry?
A day trip to The Honeyberry Farm, twenty-five miles west of Bemidji, will introduce you to a whole new berry experience. Bernis Ingvaldson first noticed the honeyberry, described as cold-hardy and able to grow in any type of soil, in a gardening catalog in the winter of 2010. They sounded too good to be true, but she ordered some to plant. Although it took five years for them to get established, Bernis and her husband, Jim, now have five acres of producing berry bushes in addition to their mail-order nursery. “We grow everything that we sell, and everything we sell we offer as you-pick,” Bernis said.
“My favorite thing is when people try a fruit that they’ve never tasted before and I can see the delight on their faces,” she added. Visitors can come to The Honeyberry Farm, pick their own fruit, learn about what they can grow on their own, and then get what they need through the mail-order side of the business.

Pick your place for pick-your-own in Lake Country

Brambling Rows Berry Farm
Ruth and John Jansen
7664 Roscoe Rd
Brainerd, MN  56401
218.838.3954
Facebook: Brambling Rows Berry Farm

Elm Island Lake Berry Farm
37815 309th St
Aitkin, MN  56431
218.927.3087
Facebook: Elm Island Berry Farm

The Honeyberry Farm
Bernis and Jim Ingvaldson
19736 350th St
Bagley, MN  56621
218.331.8070
honeyberryusa.com

Jake and Scout’s Berry Farm
Lise and Dan Herren
1822 County Rd 29
Lake Shore, MN  56468
218.821.1145
jakeandscoutsberryfarm.com

Nelson’s Berries
12629 30th St
Brainerd, MN  56401
218.829.9084
Facebook: Nelson’s Berries

Pine Winder Blueberries
Donna and Bruce Winder
1825 36th Ave SW
Pine River, MN  56474
218.587.2752
Facebook: Pine Winder Blueberries

Roger’s Berries
23525 Mail Route Rd
Brainerd, MN  56401
218.839.2665
Facebook: Roger’s Berries

Wallin’s Berry Farm
8214 County Rd 18
Nisswa, MN  56468
218.963.7456
Facebook: Wallin Berry Farm