Take Your Pick at Spencer Berry Farm
Generations of families find farm chores fun at Spencer Farm.
From picking strawberries and asparagus in the spring to dig-your-own mums in the fall, the farm’s festive atmosphere complements a U-pick experience that includes almost everything the farm grows. But for those not into picking, the farm sells “already picked” produce, too.
“In the past, ‘picking things’ was not all that fun,” says Kyle Spencer, an owner of the farm, which is located in Noblesville, northeast of Indianapolis. “But people bring their children out, and they enjoy it because it’s different.”
Spencer Farm hosts up to 30,000 visitors per year, from April’s first cuttings of asparagus to December’s Christmas tree season.
Spencer and wife Lori started a strawberry farm in 1982 on 10 acres rented from a neighbor, who helped Spencer attain his farming dream. The couple eventually bought a larger farm, changed their business name and added son Mark to the business. Today, they grow 40 acres of fruits, vegetables and flowers.
“We’ve been doing this long enough that I recognize customers,” Spencer says. “A lot of times I find myself talking to a young mother who came with her mother and now is bringing her daughter. I think the most enjoyable thing is to see people come back year after year.”
The first spears of asparagus appear in late April. In late May, the family harvests strawberries, their fruit of founding and fame. The two- to four-week strawberry harvest extends into early June and yields 70 percent of the family’s business. The farm grows 12 acres of this fancy fruit, a labor-intensive crop that requires the help of about 30 employees.
Blueberries and black raspberries start around mid-June. The harvest season for grapes and red raspberries follows in August. Throughout the summer and fall, the farm offers an abundance of fruits and vegetables. They grow most of their own but they also supplement from nearby farms, such as apples and cider from a local orchard.
By fall, the farm gives hay rides and sells corn stalks, straw bales, pumpkins and field-grown chrysanthemums. After Thanksgiving, the farm celebrates the Christmas season with wreaths, gifts, fresh-baked pies, and pre-cut Indiana-grown evergreens.
Over the course of 35 years, Spencer has battled bugs, disease and experienced both the wrath and bounty of Mother Nature. That experience prompts the farm to implement conventional growing practices.
“The organic movement definitely has its place,” Spencer says. “Here in the Midwest, we are challenged by weather, which can eliminate a crop. We try to use various methods to control pests and various methods in fertilization.”
The farm adopts approved Integrated Pest Management practices. This strategy integrates a variety of pest-control methods, including biological, chemical, behavioral, cultural and genetic factors. Depending on the pest infestation or concern, the family may combine a variety of options, such as to spray crops, grow disease-resistant varieties or introduce natural predators to reduce pests.
“We try hard to never use pesticides during a harvest,” Spencer says. “We have to deal with what we’re dealt. When you reach those economic thresholds of pest infestation, you have to make a decision on how you are going to handle it.”
The family’s relationships with patrons and quality products keep customers coming back for generations. And the family hopes for generations to come. In recent years, Spencer’s son started a vineyard on the farm, with plans to open a winery. Meanwhile, his 2-year-old grandson already likes to “help” with chores.
“He likes to be right there, which is the first step in enjoying it,” Spencer says.
If You Go...
7177 E. 161st St., Noblesville
Open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. during strawberry season, which typically starts in late May. Call 317-776-1560 to confirm hours and produce availability. Visit the farm’s Facebook page and website, spencerberryfarm.com, to see what’s in season. U-pick and pre-pick are available.