Brouwer Berries, Brouwer Family
Dan and Sarah’s berry farm began in 1998 as a very small operation on Dan’s parents’ land. The couple grew less than an acre of strawberries for the first 15 years in business. They sold out quickly each morning and realized then they needed to get big or quit. Dan and Sarah moved to the farm in Kandiyohi County and increased their planted acreage, investing in new equipment and irrigation to support their nine acres of berry production.
The Brouwers sell all their strawberries directly to consumers from the farm. They operate a U-pick business as well as offering pre-picked strawberries. The family also raises sheep. The Brouwers’ four younger children all work on the farm, doing fieldwork, serving customers and making jam. The couple’s parents help in every way they can, driving tractors, washing berries and giving advice. Karen refugees work at the berry farm during the harvest season.
Dan is the main berry grower; Sarah oversees selling them. Their children Alinda, Heidi, Tim, and James provide labor. The kids’ grandparents, Wilson and Linda, fill in where they are needed.
Sarah teaches middle-school science and brings her students to the farm for lessons in soil testing, beekeeping, lambing and berry blossoming. Brouwer Berries is in the third year of a grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture studying the effects of grazing sheep on soil health as part of a strawberry crop rotation. The grant involves reaching the public through a blog and hosting the public on the farm in addition to the information gleaned by students who visit the farm.