Never underestimate the power of a school vacation to inspire a lifelong passion in the mind and heart of a child. That’s exactly what happened to Dave Brazelton who, at age 14, visited and worked on a cousin’s 1,000-acre New Hampshire low-bush blueberry farm one summer.
The joy and intrigue he felt with the berries and their production continued with Brazelton throughout his teens, and he eventually went on to found Fall Creek Farm and Nursery in Lowell, Ore., with his wife Barbara in 1978. Over the years, Brazelton’s childhood fascination has blossomed into the world’s largest blueberry nursery stock provider.
“My parents were always fascinated with blueberries,” says Amelie Brazelton Aust, Dave and Barbara’s daughter and a co-owner in the business. “Starting the farm was a big learning curve for them, as they knew little about retail and wholesale blueberry production. But it was their passion in making blueberries better that propelled them to establish the nursery stock business and a breeding program. That was a move that came straight from the heart.”
An eagerness to share their own production knowledge, data and successes with select varieties led Brazelton to supply blueberry stock plants for both commercial fruit production and for the nursery trade. In the 1990s, Fall Creek began teaming with both U.S. and international berry breeding programs to develop and evaluate new varieties for commercial and home nursery uses.
Today, Fall Creek is very much a family-owned and run business, with strong interests in berry research and production cropping up in the Brazeltons’ second generation. Son Cort oversees Fall Creek’s international business development, daughter Amelie manages the company’s new product development and son-in-law Boris Aust, a banker from Germany, is the company’s CFO. With this family dynamic, it seems only natural that Fall Creek’s new offerings are taking a family-oriented direction.
The BrazelBerries Collection
Fall Creek and the Brazelton family have made it their mission to breed and supply premium berry varieties for commercial growers and the nursery trade, yet the fate of the finished fruit product was never far from anyone’s mind.
“Everyone loves berries,” Aust says. “We always understood that we were breeding more than just plants — we were breeding food, too. Several years ago we started asking ourselves, ‘What do berry lovers need? How can we help those who want to grow berries at home? How can we create varieties that will be successful in the backyard or even in a patio container?’”
Aust says Fall Creek went to work with its breeding program partners to develop new, innovative berry varieties specifically for the home gardener about a decade ago. Among tens of thousands of seedlings, the operation discovered its initial inspiration.
Characteristics that were compact, colorful and downright beautiful started popping up, and the team began to clarify its vision for what berries could become. Eventually, three pillars were developed to guide the breeding over the next decade: the varieties had to be easy to grow and aesthetically beautiful and produce an abundance of great-tasting fruit.
The BrazelBerries Collection of plants was born. The first collection contained four different varieties of blueberries and raspberries:
• Raspberry Shortcake: The first of its kind, Raspberry Shortcake is a thornless dwarf raspberry plant that will thrive on the patio or in the garden.
• Peach Sorbet: This compact blueberry has stunning leaves ranging from peach to pink to orange to emerald green. It turns a rich eggplant purple in winter.
• Jelly Bean: This little blueberry wonder is prolific, producing a bumper crop of large, flavorful blueberries mid-summer with super-sweet flavor reminiscent of homemade blueberry jelly.
• Blueberry Glaze: This boxwood-looking blueberry bush with glossy, dark-green leaves produces bundles of small, nearly black, intensely flavored berries.
More varieties are coming through the BrazelBerries pipeline, each promising homegrown goodness.
Good For The Whole Family
While the love of berries runs in the Brazelton family blood, they are also aware that berries are good for the body. New health research is finding that berries have beneficial effects on conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and vision ailments, and more positive health benefits continue to arrive with new research. Moreover, berries taste great and are fun for kids of all ages to eat fresh. They are good for you and good tasting — a winning combination.
“Americans are striving to eat healthier and to incorporate more healthy and fresh foods into their diets on a daily basis,” Aust says. “We are so proud to be able to offer something that can help American families accomplish this with these friendly little berry bushes right outside their back doors, which are simple to grow and within easy reach. Reach outside to grab some raspberries for the morning yogurt or pancakes for the kids, or pick some blueberries in the evening to add to lemonade or sparkling water.”
It’s all possible in our own backyards, thanks to Dave Brazelton and his summer vacation.