Berry growers optimistic about upcoming season

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP – There’s not much red to see in the berry fields yet, but the day is rapidly approaching.

Despite a late spring, local berry growers are expecting to be open for business within a week or so.

Bob Forsman, who owns and operates Forsman Family Growers in Franklin Township along with his mother and his wife, expects they’ll have berries within a week.

“We’re going to have a lot of berries this year,” he said. “They’ve had enough rain, so it looks good.”

Most of his berries are still green, though ripe ones are starting to pop up. Though the farm used to sell to local markets, Forsman said most of their business now comes from people looking to pick.

“They’re looking pretty nice for size-wise – big berries this year,” he said.

Henry Ohtonen just walked the field at his Chassell farm Monday afternoon and didn’t see any ripe ones. That should happen around the middle of next week, he said.

“They’re a little bit later this year, because of the late spring,” he said.

More rain and the colder temperatures being forecast could help with the size, which Ohtonen predicts will be “pretty nice.”

He usually has about 9,000 to 10,000 quarts a year, which he said he should be able to meet again this year.

“So far it looks like it, but you don’t know,” he said. “They had hail south of us yesterday.”

Dan Crane said the cool spring delayed the start of picking by about a week. But with more rain than last spring, things are still shaping up for a good season.

“By the weekend, we’ll start having some, but not open for picking,” he said. “Probably next week, around festival time – which will be perfect timing.”

Crane has between 3,000 and 5,000 quarts of strawberries across eight acres. They’ve picked five quarts so far, a number that should grow rapidly.

“We’ve got a lot of calls, a lot of orders already booked,” he said. “People are calling about self-picking. We know their minds are on strawberries, which is good.”