Greg Zwald admits that he knew little about agritourism when he decided to take on a new challenge in 2012. What the former dairy farmer did know was that he and his wife, Irma, wanted to sell directly to consumers.
So he did his research and took classes on fruit and vegetable production before opening White Pine Berry Farm, a 10-acre U-pick operation in River Falls.
Today, the operation has grown to include blueberries; red, gold and black raspberries; currants; and a wide variety of vegetables. Customers looking for fresh, organically certified fruit and vegetables can come to the farm and pick the items themselves or buy them already picked.
They can also find Zwald at the St. Paul farmers’ market, where, depending on the day, his stand might include berries, asparagus, carrots, kale, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, currants and watermelon.
When visitors come to White Pine Berry Farm, Zwald hopes they find it to be a “fun adventure, a time when they can be in the open countryside, enjoy the atmosphere and learn something about the food they eat and the rural lifestyle.”
To add to the adventure, Zwald added a corn maze and a pumpkin patch that families can enjoy in the fall.
“U-pick isn’t a large segment of the ag market in Wisconsin, but it is an important segment for a lot of reasons,” says Zwald, who also serves on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection board. “It’s a great place for young people who want to get their start in agriculture.