Lowell farm savoring sweet success of self-pick harvest
LOWELL — In the shade of the shed at R and K Family Farms, a steady line of people carrying buckets, pails and other containers overflowing with blueberries and raspberries stood at the wooden counter. A breeze came and went as they paid for produce that until a few minutes before had been attached to canes and bushes, ripe and inviting.
“The raspberries, there were so many … it was great,” Ashley Renik said, stowing big covered bowls of the fruit in the back of her SUV, a space already crowded with a variety of loot from yard sales. “We’ll make pies and jelly.”
The family had come from New Lexington specifically for some fresh Wagner berries, she said.
“We drove an hour and ten minutes here, just for this,” she said. “The kids got a little hot out there, but they had a good time. They’ll get bored and start playing in the dirt, so you have to keep them busy.”
That’s nothing exceptional, Sandy Wagner said. Waving at the 30 acres of raspberries, blueberries and corn across 30 acres of rich bottomland by the Muskingum River, she said, “We’ve had people from as far away as Pennsylvania that come here for this.”
The Wagner family has farmed since the 1930s and cultivated the plot at Lowell since 1979, she said. In addition to its much-sought you-pick berry crops, the farm grows field and sweet corn, tomatoes, beets and other vegetables and grains, and has other plots here and there.
The weather this year has been a mixed blessing, Wagner said, with heavy rain boosting the berry crop but slowing down the corn.
“The berries came out but we lost a lot of them because the rain kept people away,” she said.
On Friday, the sun came and went behind slow-moving clouds and the heat came up early, with temperatures nudging 80 degrees by 10 a.m. Debbie Underwood and about eight family members and friends made their way slowly through the rows of ripe black raspberries.
“We came here from Doddridge County, West Virginia,” Underwood said. One of the group, 12-year-old Cassie Cumberledge, sampled the fruit as she picked.
“They are good,” she said.
The blueberries are protected under a low canopy of netting.
“You don’t do that, the birds would get them all,” Wagner said.
Linda Baker had come from Caldwell and was on her way out, stooping slightly under the netting with boxes of blueberries cradled in her arms. “I was down here last night, too,” she said.
The you-pick part of the farm opened near the end of May, Wagner said, and will stay open until the blueberries are gone, probably around the end of July or early August.
“Then it will be time to harvest the field crops,” she said.
The farm is owned by Randy and Tammy Wagner and Keith and Sandy Wagner, and operated during the summer season by four family members and four hired staff, she said.
The farm, on the west side of Ohio 60 just south of Lowell, is open seven days a week — 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The you-pick raspberries are $3 a pound, blueberries are $2.50 a pound.
Michael Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Glance at R and K Wagner Farms
* Location: Ohio 60 near Lowell
* Size: 30 acres of bottomland by the Muskingum River, other patches nearby
* Crops: Gold, red and black raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, field corn, beets, asparagus, baled straw and hay
* Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Source: R and K Family Farms