You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

breaking news

Ohio man accused of trying to join ISIS in Syria

Crop and anxieties up as raspberry season opens

Operations in Clark and Champaign counties started as FFA and college fund projects.

With his cash crop of red and black raspberries 20 percent up but still ripening a week before picking, a worry visits Mike Pullins like a persistent fly.

“The thing that always scares me, the worst thing that could happen now, is a hail storm,” said Pullins at Champaign Berry Farm on the west side of the Champaign County village of Mutual.

He’s not alone.

“There is a new bug out there,” said Berryland’s Barbara Kranz, whose grandsons are earning their college money in the field she and husband Ed have provided for them at 9530 Plattsburg Road. “If it doesn’t find us, we have an outstanding crop.”

But it’s not just because brief, intense misery loves company that they want more people in the business.

“We need more growers to fill the demand,” said Pullins, whose family operation started 25 years ago in Cable as his older son’s Future Farmers of America project. “We would welcome the additional growers.”

Ed Kranz says Pullins is true to his welcoming word.

“Mike has been like a mentor to me in this whole thing,” said the retired Northeastern High School educator, whose operation is in its 11th year.

Both local operations get 80 percent of their business from pickers and are posting picking conditions on their Facebook (Berryland) or Web pages ( They also send out hundreds of cards, mailers and emails to loyal customers who troop back year after year.

Champaign Berry Farm will charge $3.80 a pound for pick-your-own berries of both colors. Picked berries will be $9.25 a quart (about 1.25 pounds) or $6.65 a pint, and gooseberries are available. Berryland will charge pickers $3.75 a pound for red and black raspberries.

Hours at Champaign Berry Farm (937-232-7525) will be 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 2 to 8:30 p.m. Sundays. Berryland (937-568-4312) will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. It is closed Sundays.

The region has hundreds of thousands of people, noted Pullins, retired after 33 years with the Ohio Farm Bureau and who was serving as executive director of the Ohio Fruit Growers Association when he and his son launched the business.

In that area, “there are only a handful of growers,” he said.

In addition to pickers from Columbus, “We get a lot of people from Lima and Kenton and that area.”

Some drive from Marion, and “we’ve got regular people from Virginia and Kentucky that come each year,” he said.

Even relative newcomers Jake and Matt Kranz look forward to taking their favorite customers on a short golf cart ride to a prime picking spot. Springfielder Jess Leffel, 94, and a picker with staying power, is one the boys particularly like to see.

Some Springfielders continue to migrate as they have for decades to Stokes Berry Farm in Wilmington ( 937-382-4004), where Dale Stokes has been growing and developing red and particularly black raspberries.

Stokes said he met a commercial grower, decided to give it a try “and here I am 50 years later.”

Pullins said just as he has tried to help Kranz, Stokes has tried to help him over the years — and worked to improve what Pullins describes as “a sensitive and valuable” crop.

Unlike strawberries and even red raspberries, black raspberry plants are closer to being wild than cultivated. Native to the Midwest, they can survive more severe winters than red raspberries, but their comparative lack of breeding means they don’t produce as much fruit.

High-maintenance, they require underground irrigation, must have their top growth pinched back to keep them from mushrooming from bushes into trees, and have to have the canes from one year’s crop removed so it can grow back the next year.

“That job has to be the hardest,” explained the seasoned Jake Kranz. “And, of course, they’re covered with thorns.”

His grandfather has also discovered black raspberries’ vulnerability to an orange rust “that cannot be prevented by any kind of spray and it cannot be cured once you have it.”

Stokes, the voice of experience in Ohio raspberries, describes the challenges dryly: “You don’t make mistakes growing black raspberries.”

If the health of the plants themselves can be dicey, one of their strengths is the health benefits of the berry “bioactives” studied by cancer researchers including Ohio State University’s Dr. Garry D. Stoner.

“We have clearly shown that berries, which contain a variety of anti-cancer compounds have a genome-wide effect on the expression of genes involved in cancer development,” Stoner said in a university press release.

He said the research suggests “that a mixture of preventive agents, which berries provide, may more effectively prevent cancer than a single agent that targets only a few genes.”

Stokes has since 1990 been selling freeze dried black raspberry powder, which concentrates the active ingredients in 10 pounds of berries into single pound of powder that can be mixed with water or fruit juice.

(Stokes discourages its use with yogurt and milk because “there is a potential for milk proteins to tie up some of the bioactives.”)

Just as Matt Kranz is following brother Jake into the business now, Kent Pullins followed his older brother Matt in the business, also to help pay for their college educations.

Now 34, Matt Pullins continues to be involved. Just as he looked after marketing and customer service, manual lab or and agronomics in high school and college, he now contributes the skills that landed him a job as the chief financial officer at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh.

He called the berry business “tremendous experience” that provided a “good foundation,” particularly the sense of what’s required “when it’s your business and you’re the one that’s responsible for everything.”

Brother Kent Pullins, now a materials engineer working with composites at GE Aerospace in Cincinnati, started “at the ripe old age of 10.”

He now works with his dad to coordinate “the operations sides of things, whether it’s fixing sprayers or coming up with new ideas for increasing production.

Last year, his fiance, Lindsay DeBrosse also got involved, launching the berry farm’s website, establishing an email list to communicate with customers and targeting advertising.

“I have to say it’s something I’ve fallen in love with and very much enjoy being part of the berry far as well as the family,” she said.

Both sons say it has kept their family closer.

As Kent Pullins puts it, “I’ve found the the farm to provide a lot of good excuses to pick up the phone and talk to my parents and my brother.”

While it has kept grandparents and grandchildren in close contact, the Kranz family’s experience shows that berry growing does not always produce universal agreement.

Mrs. Kranz, known to make a mean black raspberry cobbler, said that when her husband first suggested their venture, “he said it was going to be a lot of work. He didn’t tell me how much work.”

Mr. Kranz said the idea of growing black raspberries was appealing because “my wife liked them.”

Don’t worry. When the crop is in, the college fund fed and everyone’s had their share of grandma’s black raspberry cobbler, the finger pointing will be replaced by finger licking.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Business

5 things to know about Meijer home delivery
5 things to know about Meijer home delivery

Meijer’s home delivery starts today in the Miami Valley, allowing customers to shop for more than 55,000 items online. The service will cover 2,100 square miles including Miamisburg, Middletown, Lebanon, Huber Heights, Englewood, Springfield and Troy, acccording to the company. That’s more than 415,000 houses that can be serviced by Meijer&rsquo...
Booted from a Delta flight? You could get $10,000 as payment
Booted from a Delta flight? You could get $10,000 as payment

Delta is now letting employees offer customers almost $10,000 in compensation if passengers give up their seats on overbooked flights. The decision comes after a disastrous month for United Airlines when a passenger was dragged off of an overbooked flight. The passenger, David Dao, was left bloodied and injured after being forcibly removed. Several...
Days by the pool: Is it worth the cost?
Days by the pool: Is it worth the cost?

Every year as summer approaches, families think about adding pools to their backyards. Before your kids talk you into installing one, you should consider the financial implications. Better Business Bureau advises you: Do your research before installing your own pool. Ask yourself why you want a pool Consider these questions: Why do you want a pool?...
Chipotle investigating credit card data breach
Chipotle investigating credit card data breach

Chipotle Mexican Grill is investigating a data breach in its payment processing system, after reporting a sharp increase in sales. The fast-casual restaurant said it recently detected unauthorized activity on its network that supports the payment system. Chipotle said the transactions occurred between March 24 and April 18, and the company believes...
RETAIL APOCALYPSE: More than 8,600 stores could close in 2017
RETAIL APOCALYPSE: More than 8,600 stores could close in 2017

More than 8,600 stores could close in 2017, a record estimate of closures compared to recent years. A new research report from brokerage firm Credit Suisse estimated that more than 8,600 stores will close this year, up from the 2,065 that closed last year and the 5,077 store closures in 2015. Major retailers across the country have taken a hit...
More Stories