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'Our fields are tired': Why Mequon's popular Barthel Fruit Farm will no longer grow strawberries

Posted at 6:05 AM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 19:29:49-04

Watch Julia Fello's full report on TMJ4 News at 6 p.m.

MEQUON -- So many precious memories have grown at Barthel Fruit Farm, where families could pick their own delicious strawberries.

Which is why it was so hard for the Knudsen family to write these words: "...after growing strawberries for 72 years, our fields are tired and can no longer sustain growing berries for you."

"Oh, it was hard, it was incredibly hard," said Sue Knudsen, owner of Barthel Fruit Farm.


Knudsen says it was clear their 55-acre farm in Mequon is screaming for help.

"I'd say from 2019 to last year, our yields decreased by about 25 to 30 percent."

Which immediately decays into their bottom line. Multiple soil tests confirmed Knudsen's hunch.

"There were some fields where certain nutrients were completely missing."

Knudsen explained that strawberry patches take a toll on the soil as it grows. Her husband Jeff says they do not have the acreage to give their fields a long enough break.

"Fertilizer into the field is just a quick fix. Maybe in 20 years the soil is going to be good enough...if my boys want to plant strawberries."


Which is why the family wrote this note to their loyal customers on their public Facebook page, saying that they would have to lose their biggest attraction.

"Farming is an everyday adventure full of triumphs, failures, hope, sadness but most of all, growth," the post says.

"We were nervous about how people would react to it, we have a very strong customer base," said Sue.

Fortunately, Jeff says the soil is still healthy enough for their apple, pear, and plum orchards.

"Planting trees is great for the soil - the soil loves trees," Jeff says.

While this is the last year for strawberries, the hope is for the land to be better than before.

Barthel Fruit Farm's greenhouse opens April 30.


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