Another summer is in full bloom, and this season is bringing a fresh, ripe new business to St. Michael with the planting of D Round Barn Berries just west of the city.
Located south of County Highway 35 on Jamison Avenue, D’s Round Barn Berries sits on the historic Lenneman farm, which has one of Wright County’s few remaining round barns (hence the names). But it’s what is new, not old, that has people buzzing out here.
Dave and Mayen Dufner purchased acreage on the farm – which was nearly a housing development during the boom of the early 2000s – back in 2013. Dave, a banker, and Mayen, an IT consultant, decided to give farming a shot.
“Really, it started with Mayen wanting her own business,” Dave said. “I had her do a business plan, some research and really show me how this was going to cash flow. She did the paperwork, and we decided to give it a go.”
“I’ve never done so much paperwork,” Mayen said with a laugh. “Why a strawberry patch? Because I like strawberries. Really. That was it.”
Well, there’s a bit more to this berry business. Mayen and Dave have three sons, and, Mayen said, didn’t want them to spend summers in front of a television or gaming console.
“Dave grew up on a farm and he’s, you know, very resourceful because of that. He likes to know how things work and where they come from. And I want my sons to have that same sort of skill,” Mayen said. “Working out here is teaching them a lot of different things.”
While the farm is about 50 acres, right now Dave and Mayen are using only about 2 acres of that space. About an acre and a half is dedicated to strawberries. Another half-acre (actually, less) is being set aside for blueberries, raspberries and whatever other berry Mayen decides to dig into.
The work on D’s Round Barn Berries started two years before this year, their first picking season. In 2013, the couple planted literally hundreds of strawberry plants just south of the main driveway, braving bugs, weather, rain, more bugs, more rain and, ultimately, the painstaking task of planting many of the berry plants by hand when conditions became too wet to use an automated system.
Last year, as blossoms began to appear on the plants, the family was pumped. But the parents knew what had to come next – pruning those blossoms for one season.
“The boys didn’t quite understand it, but we explained that this had to be done for one season so we could really have quality fruit the next summer. So we sent them down the rows with scissors. Now they understand where that energy went – into the plants instead of the fruit last year, and into some really beautiful fruit this season,” Mayen said.
Dave said he hopes his family can continue to grow the new business and, eventually, bring much of the farm back to life. All of the sheds and, especially, the round barn need some TLC, particularly on the roof. The old farm house is completely inhabitable and will eventually be torn down.
“All of this is a learning process for us. This is the first year we’ve had berries to pick, and we’ll learn with everyone how long they’ll be around,” Dave said. “But we’re very pleased. We haven’t been picked out yet, which means the plants are really doing a good job. The weather, with all of the rain, has certainly helped.”
D Round Barn Berries is open every weekday from 8 a.m. to noon and again from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. for “U-pick” service. On the weekends, hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday. More information, including conditions, can be found on the D Round Bar Berries website, or visit them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
D Round Barn Berries is part of the Minnesota Grown system, and also accepts advanced orders, which can be placed by calling 612-237-8443.