PUPOSKY -- It hasn't been the easiest season for berry growers, but the morning rain Thursday did not keep the locals from visiting Mistic Berry Farm to get their hands on home grown strawberries.
Mistic Berry Farm, located about 25 miles north of Bemidji, has been a part of the Puposky farming community for 99 years. This year, they are celebrating 30 years of growing strawberries and allowing visitors to come on the farm to pick their own berries. The Mistic family previously managed a dairy, hog and wild rice farm on the property.
“This farm in 2020 will be 100 years with Mistic descendants,” said owner Diane Mistic.
Diane and Frank Mistic own the farm and are frequently helped by their children and grandchildren. But, it’s not only the Mistic family who find traditions on the farm. Families from near and far travel to come pick berries year after year, eat strawberry specialty foods in the restaurant and create memories with friends and family, Mistic said.
Children and adults alike enjoy getting to turn their berries into different creations. Some make pies, others freeze them for the winter while some just cant wait to start snacking.
Typically, the strawberry picking season is just two to three weeks long in Minnesota depending on the weather, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Picking started later than usual at Mistic Berry Farm this year, with the first date of picking was pushed back to July 7 to make sure the berries were ready for the crowd.
Michelle Wallin kept a close eye on her son Nathanael in the field Thursday as he couldn't wait to taste test the ripe berries from the buckets of his siblings sitting nearby. The 1-year-old happily clung to his mother with strawberry stains on his shirt and sticky fingers after she gave him his own strawberries to keep him out of his siblings' berry buckets.
Wallin said that the experiences they have had at the farm have been great for all of her children. She her family is so dedicated to their tradition of coming to Mistic Berry Farm they even ventured to pick berries two days after she had given birth to her son last year.
“It's a tradition we try to come out once,” Wallin said. “I didn't get to pick because I wasn't feeling the best, but my husband took the kids out and they got to pick it and eat it.”
Mistic said seeing families like the Wallins make traditions and family memories out of their farm has been one of the best moments of getting to interact with their community.
“We saw families when they were pushing their children in strollers and now their kids are coming with their children,” Mistic said. “When people who grew up here move away, they try to plan their vacations on when we are going to be open.”
Riding the tractor trailer out to the fields is just the start of the fun at the farm. Enhancing the picking experience for visitors is a value still held by Mistic Berry Farm staff after 30 years. And they've upgraded, too. Mistic said adding air conditioning in their buildings has been a plus, especially when dealing with weather-related issues, of which there have been this year.
Mistic recalled one summer the farm suffered hail damage and more than 9 inches of rain. While this year hasn't been that drastic, it has had its share of challenges. After being closed earlier this week because of rain, and with rain hitting Thursday morning, as well, picking hours were in short supply. But the slow filtering in of visitors quickly turned into crowds Thursday as the sun came out and the storm passed by.
“It is going well, we've have had a problem with weather and the ripening of our berries,” Mistic said. “We don't like people not to be happy because they cant find as many berries as they want, so we shut down so they can ripen.”
Families grow and circumstances change, but the Mistic family knows the reality of owning a business. They have plans to return to regularly farming crops in the future but for now they will continue to embrace the day-to-day work they do.
“We have enjoyed it,” Mistic said “It is hard to find young people who want to pick berries -- we are fortunate this year that we have a great group. When we decide that we have had it, we will miss it.”