“Strawberry Fields Forever” at Brouwer Berries
As one of the most influential band of all times sang, “let me take you down ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.” And although the Beatles aren’t here to serenade you into a berry-picking frenzy, Brouwer Berries in Raymond (just 11 miles west of Willmar) can help you experience their lovely, local strawberry fields. With acres of blooming berries, this family farm had humble beginnings.
Dan Brouwer started the business in 1998, when he offhandedly mentioned to his wife, Sarah Brouwer, his purchase of 1,500 strawberry plants and he and his mother’s plans to transform part of the property into a “u-pick” farm. He would grow the plants, and then they could provide some fresh fruit to their friends and family. Originally, they only opened their small field of ‘plucky’ fruit to people they were close to, but their berry-picking frenzy on the quarter of an acre would only last minutes. Guests would arrive at 8:00 a.m. and the berries would be completely gone by 8:15 a.m. So the Brouwers decided they needed to get a little bigger.
Over 20 years later, the Brouwer’s strawberry operation has multiplied 12-fold, expanding from its original quarter of an acre to the 6 acres visitors traverse today. Their expansion has allowed visitors from all over the area (and further) to try their hand at harvesting the berries that they can purchase and bring home. Dan grows the fruit, taking care to cultivate the juiciest and ripest strawberries around the area, and Sarah sells them, either by the bucket or in her homemade jams. Family friends also make pies from the berries, putting the vast quantities of fruit to good use. And greater Minnesota has noticed this strawberry operation. WCCO’s Best of Minnesota segment featured Brouwer Berries in 2016, showcasing the farm’s incredible produce and the incredible people (Dan and Sarah, of course) who work hard to provide this “u-pick” experience for so many people.
Visitors come from far and wide to try their hand at berry picking, spending an afternoon under the sun in the bountiful strawberry fields. Rows and rows of the red fruit line the fields, and each person stays along one row to optimize the Brouwer’s berry-picking strategy. The best way to find the berries is to brush your hands over the top greenery, gently clearing the leaves out of the way to reveal bold spots of red. Then, you take the strawberry and turn it over to make sure the bottom (or the pointier end) is red and not white or light green. After you’ve determined that the series is indeed red and ready for pluckin’, gently twist the stem between your fingers and pull lightly to pop the strawberry off the stem and place it gently into whatever container you’re using to collect the berries. And voilà! You’re now an expert strawberry picker.
Brouwer Berries is the perfect spot to take the whole family for an afternoon, to have a cute date, or to simply spend time with some friends. The farm opens its doors to berry pickers in late June until the fruit is gone, usually sometime in July. But the actual strawberry picking is only half of the fun. When you arrive at the farm, the Brouwers take you out to the fields in a bright red and white wagon called the “Strawberry Express,” destined to take you to the spots with the ripest berries. Kids love the wagon rides to and from the fields, taking in the pastoral countryside as they bump along the worn path to their strawberry destination.
Brouwer Berries is a great spot to make memories that will last a lifetime, perfectly encapsulating the title of the beloved Beatles song, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” So make sure to put a note to head out to Brouwer Berries sometime in June or July for your own berry-picking adventure. You’ll remember that summer afternoon in the strawberry fields for years to come.
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