Her excitement about her newest venture was evident in her voice and the light in her eyes.
“On Columbus Day weekend (Oct. 7) we are going to have a 'sha-bang',” said Burley Berries and Blooms owner Megan Burley. “We are going to have pumpkins, flowers, kid activities, apple dumplings, and we hope to sell East Hill (Creamery) cheeses as well and hope to have melted cheese on potatoes.”
Late last month, Burley officially opened the “Blooms” portion of her business at 6335 Route 20A, Warsaw, with a ribbon cutting and plans on expanding both berry and flower varieties next season.
“Growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania I learned so much…and it's a good way to raise children. And it gave me the people interaction. So it's helped in this venture.”
Burley moved to Wyoming County five years ago following her marriage to Ryan Burley. Four years ago they planted strawberries. This summer she expanded her U-pick offerings to include U-pick flowers.
Although this is Burley’s first year experimenting with the flowers, this season was the third for her berry patches.
“I added the flowers because I love flowers and the garden in front was filled with flowers. I liked them growing up, so I decided to do my own. I didn’t want to go into debt to build the business so I am starting out small.”
However, Burley didn’t start out with an entrepreneurial career plan, after graduating from Penn State with a degree in Agricultural Science, she planned on doing crop consulting. Instead, she married Ryan and moved to New York.
“We met on Farmersonly.com and I presented the idea of my own business pretty early on in the relationship. I also work for Cornell Cooperative Extension and work with beginning farmers, so it’s helped me in what I’m doing as well.”
Although Megan grew up on a farm, she didn’t know much about cows until she met Ryan. Ryan continues to work his family farm – East Hill Farms – in Warsaw. Her family’s farm was focused on vegetable crops.
“Even in high school I grew strawberries. When we first moved here we put in a half acre of strawberries and added a half acre every year since. We are almost up to two acres of strawberries.”
Although planting the berry can begin as early as March, the picking season has a much shorter window – three to four weeks – and it takes two years for the plants to produce fruit. In order to extend the picking season as long as possible, Burley planted a variety of strawberry called Malwina. She hopes this will give her an extra two weeks of picking season.
“We’ve planted 15 varieties and next year we will have eight pickable varieties. We have Early Glow, which are the first strawberries of the season and are very sweet, and Jewel and Honeoye…they are all sweet varieties.”
To make the best use of the land, Burley plans on rotating the crops every few years. She intends on keeping a planting of strawberries for three to four years. By that fourth year, the yield is less. Subsequently, the patch of land Burley used for her initial crop of strawberries will now become a blueberry patch, she says.
In addition to her part-time employment with CCE and Berries and Blooms, Megan and Ryan have two toddlers – Judson, 2 years old, and Leena, 1.
“They are 11 months apart so it was a big surprise when we knew we were having them so close together… Strawberry season is more overwhelming than the flowers…there is more effort with the strawberries.”
However, she said she couldn’t do it without the help of her husband and augmenting child care with daycare.
“Half if not more of the people who come here are moms and they bring their kids. I’m a mom so I understand the juggling act, so I encourage them to bring the kids. I’m more in this for the people than growing the crop. However, I do hope to make this a full-time venture.”
In addition to the Warsaw location, goods from Burley Berries and Blooms can be found at the Geneseo Farmers Market from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 19, and in a possible new craft beer from the Silver Lake Brewing Project.
“They bought strawberries, blueberries and currants. The idea is to give the ale an aroma.”
Burley Berries is still offering U-pick flowers this year and are sold on a self-serve, U-pick basis. Flowers can also be bought at bulk pricing for weddings or events.
For more information about Burley Berries and Blooms call (585) 687-7050 or click here.