Manes: Meet the peachy couple who run Evers Berry Farm
BY JEFF MANES firstname.lastname@example.org July 25, 2014 1:04PM
Audrey and Lloyd Nordstrom | Jeff Manes/For Sun-Times Media
Evers Berry Farm is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sundays. Visit eversblueberries.com or call (219) 863-6082.
Updated: August 28, 2014 6:15AM
“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
“To the village through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:
“Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
“Real sky-blue, and heavy and ready to drum
“In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!...”
— Robert Frost
Audrey and Lloyd Nordstrom live in DeMotte on Evers Berry Farm. Before marrying Lloyd 46 years ago, Audrey was an Evers. They are retired now, but the blueberry farm continues to thrive as the Gary and Lisa Fritts family sharecrop the place.
Besides farming, Audrey is a former schoolteacher who keeps a perennial border that looks like something out of a magazine and Lloyd is a Vietnam veteran and cancer survivor with a degree in political science. They are both members the American Reformed Church in DeMotte.
Did you both attend DeMotte High School?
Audrey: “I did. Lloyd went to Mount Ayr High School.”
Lloyd: “I went to Purdue University and Valparaiso University. Audrey went to Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and received her master’s at the University of Iowa. We lived in Iowa for several years, before moving back here in ’71.”
Is this farmstead where you grew up?
Audrey: “Yes. My parents always owned the farm, but they lived about two miles away. They moved to this house when I was in the second grade.”
Was your father, John Evers, the first generation of Evers to settle in DeMotte?
Audrey: “No, that would be my grandfather, Richard Evers.”
Was it always a blueberry farm?
Audrey: “My father grew corn and vegetable crops at first. In probably about ’48 or ’49, he planted his first blueberries. We still have a few of those very first bushes left on our farm.”
Was your dad the first farmer in DeMotte to try his hand at raising blueberries?
Audrey: “The second. Jack Sauer was the first.”
Lloyd: “Jack lived south of town. He talked Audrey’s father into trying it. Sauer ended up selling to Eenigenburg. Sauer was originally a plasterer from Chicago who just wanted to grow blueberries.”
Audrey: “Jack plastered this house.”
How many acres is this farm all together?
Audrey: “It’s 80 acres. My sister and I own it.”
How many acres are planted in blueberries?
Lloyd: “About 10.”
How old are the bushes when you purchase them?
Audrey: “Two or three years. Then you have to wait several more years before you get a crop.”
What variety of blueberry did you and Lloyd or your dad grow?
Audrey: “Blue Crop, Blue Ray and Jersey. My favorite tasting blueberry is Jersey, but people don’t like to pick them because they’re smaller and harder to pick. When we came back from Iowa, we expanded the truck crop portion of the business. We grew melons, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet corn. ... We also had 30 acres of asparagus.”
Lloyd: “After a while, we kind of got out of the produce business and got into the greenhouse business, selling plants.”
Audrey: “We had 13 greenhouses here at one time. We had greenhouses for about 30 years. We’d sell plants at farmers markets in Chicago. At the Daley Plaza our booth was always at the base of the Picasso.”
Lloyd: “Everybody and their brother was selling produce. We had our niche selling vegetable plants and flowers.”
Audrey: “That’s about when we had Gary [Fritts] take over the blueberry operation. We couldn’t handle both — it was too much.”
How much are berries going for this year?
Lloyd: “They’re $2.90 per pound already picked and $1.90 per pound you-pick.”
Will it still be blueberry season when this story goes to print in late July?
Lloyd: “It will definitely be coming to an end. It used to go well into August. They use harvesting machinery now that comes in and cleans the fields up. When it was strictly hand-pick, it wasn’t unusual on Labor Day to have a few people out there picking.”
Audrey: “I remember coming home from school and there would be people out there picking with my mom.”
Lloyd, when you were a boy growing up in Mount Ayr, was your dad also a sodbuster?
Lloyd: “No, my dad was a mechanic. He worked for Kapers too.”
Audrey, I’m sure you spent your time out in the fields while growing up on this farm.
Audrey: “Oh, yeah. I didn’t have a brother and my sister was 11 years older than I was. I was with my dad from almost morning until night.”
Lloyd: “Audrey was the hired hand.”
Audrey: During asparagus season, school didn’t start until 10 a.m. I was bound and determined I was not going to marry a farmer. And what did Lloyd do? He changed on me as soon as I said: ‘I do.’ But once it became our farm, it was a totally different story. We’ve been blessed.”
Salt of the earth, Audrey and Lloyd Nordstrom.