Eau Claire Co. family keeps love of land alive in a new way

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT
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ELEVA, Wis. (WEAU) -In a state known for its dairy products, one farm family is growing a summertime staple in the hills of western Wisconsin.

For generations Andrea Nyseth’s family has called this land north of Eleva home. Her grandparents bought the land from the railroad turning it into a dairy farm.

“All of this out here was corn or hay ground when we were young and growing up and then my Dad loved farming, and he switched from dairy-- having dairy cattle-- to beef cattle, so as we grew up, we grew up our whole lives on this farm,” Andrea said.

Today, the land looks a little different--covered with plants producing a special summer fruit. The change coming to help keep her father and the family on the land they love.

“When he was at the point where he thought maybe he wasn’t going to be farming anymore, we didn’t want him to have to move off of the farm, so my husband Mark thought of the idea of doing blueberries and apples,” Andrea said.

While still living off of the farm, they put their first blueberry plants in the soil in 2004. They started with 6,500, adding more each year.

“We just did the drive back and forth from Strum, so up early out here, worked all day until it was dark and then go back home,” Andrea said.

Unlike other crops like corn, growing blueberries takes time.

“They’ll have a few blueberries when they’re young, but usually seven to eight years before you get any real production out of them,” Mark Nyseth said. “Seven to eight years and when the canes start getting older, you got to take some of the old canes out to keep some of the new ones coming in, so it takes a while for them.”

Mark said he got his start raising plants at a young age growing an unusual crop.

“When I was 10 or 11 maybe, I raised two acres of tobacco just south of Strum on an allotment, so my Dad, my grandpa and I and my little brother,” Mark said.

The passion for growing plants led to all the different goods you can now find at Blueberry Ridge Orchard from blueberries and apples to plums and even honey.

Mark said crops that return every year can bring their own challenges

“They can get some damage in the winter if you get too long a period of cold, you can get some cold damage,” Mark said. “In the spring, you can get a spring frost, and then it can take your crop, then you still have to take care of it for the next year because you’re raising this year’s crop along with next year’s crop.”

For the Nyseth family, all the work is worth it.

“It’s very peaceful out here, so I love that,” Andrea said. “I love that our customers get to come out and have a little bit of that peace and slice of heaven.”

Andrea said that wouldn’t be possible without the help of family and friends.

Blueberry Ridge Orchard in Eleva is open now for blueberry season. Community members can come out and pick their own blueberries or buy some honey. They also sell apples and plums. You can also catch them at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market.

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