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Zuppero Berry Farm

NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 8-3-05, By Julie A. Short

Pick your own berries at the Zuppero Berry Farm

``AVON -- ... Longtime Avonites may remember the summer tradition of picking blue berries at the Zuppero Berry Farm (2935 Jaycox Road). Well, it's blue berry picking season; and the farm is open on Saturdays and Wednesdays through mid-August for the public to come an enjoy a sunny afternoon among the six acres of highbrush berry plants which are over 45 years old.

"We are a third generation of family farmers in Avon since 1918," Pauline Schneider said. "My grandfather came from Sicily in hopes of a better life. My husband, Rick, and I took over the farm a number of years ago because we didn't want the farm to go into another family's hands. It's now a hobby for us and the berry picking is very therapeutic. Our sons, Lukas and Marcus help us a great deal."

Rick's roots are deeply in Avon as well. Schnieder Court was named after his grandparents. Pauline's father, Tony Zuppero, grew and picked the berries for more than 20 years and would take them to the local food commission to sell them.

"We did have raspberries on the farm, but they are a very delicate fruit," Pauline said. "There are also other vegetables on the farm including tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, broccoli and eggplant. We also have a number of beehives and about three years ago started making and selling our own honey."

The PRESS recently visited the Zuppero Farm on a designated picking day, but unfortunately, the rough rainy weather from the past week, postponed the days picking.

"The drought was not good to us," Pauline said. "We don't irrigate, so we rely on the rain. The plants don't like to be kept to wait, so we need a nice balance of sun and rain. We have a lot of regulars that like to come and pick so I tell people to always call first because we leave updates on the answering machine if we are picking on a certain day or not."

According to Pauline, there are five different varieties of blueberries, which vary in size, color, shape and flavor.

"One particular variety is good for pies," she said. "When people come to pick, I show them the areas where the pie berries are. Other varieties are good in fruit salads, pancakes, muffins, cereals, cobblers, fruit smoothies and ice cream. They can also be used for vinegars, wine, brandy, jellies and jams.

People often ask how do you store berries and I tell them, 'we eat them so fast, they don't stay around too long.' My husband is also the baker in our house. His mother taught him how to bake pies so he uses a lot the berries for them."

When visitors come to the farm on designated 'picking' days, they receive a pail and a freezer bag to take their berries home in. After picking, the berries are sold by the pound. A pail can hold up to 11 pounds of berries.

"I never wash the berries either," Pauline said. "We don't use any chemicals on them so you can eat them right off the vine. Berries have a natural film on them and they are okay to eat right off the vine. I tell people when they are out there picking to eat the different berries so they can get a sampling of how the different berries taste.

"Another great thing about berry picking is that everyone can do it, young and old," she continued. "Plus there are no thorns on the plants and your don't have do a lot of bending down. It's fun to pick berries. We have a lot of grandparents who come out with their grandkids and they pick berries."

The Schneiders start to trim the berry plants in March to get ready for the upcoming season. They have recently planted two-year old blueberry plants to replace vacant spots in the patch. Rick plans to clear a lot next to the existing patch to expand the fruit growing opportunities.

"Blueberries are extremely good for you," Pauline said. "They are full of antioxidants and are good for the brain and rejuvenation."

Pauline also noted that Charles Behnke, horticultural agent with Ohio State University Extension-Lorain County, has been instrumental in giving guidance and information regarding fruit growing. "He's a wealth of knowledge," she said.

The hours of operation blueberry picking are Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday hours are available as the season progresses and as the berries ripen. The patch is closed when conditions or wet or the berries are not ripe enough. Call 937-5437 to verify times.''

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