Jacobs Family Berry Farm: Defining the emerging venue of “Ag Tourism”

Posted By on September 4, 2013

Photo courtesy of Jacobs Family Berry Farm

Photo courtesy of Jacobs Family Berry Farm

by Joey Crandall, joey@carsonvalleytimes.com

Much of Carson Valley’s quickly-developing Valley Visioning plan is focused on re-establishing a link between the community and the land.

Along with that comes a focus on branding the area’s agriculture and bringing a sort of “Ag Tourism” to the forefront.

As those plans develop, they’ll likely point to the model of Jacobs Family Berry Farm, hidden in plain site off Centerville Lane in Gardnerville behind St. Gall Catholic Church and the First Baptist Church Minden/Gardnerville.

It’s the site of Lampe Ranch, established in 1887 over what now comprises a bulk of downtown Gardnerville, including Lampe Park.BErryFarm5-cvt-090313

Jack Jacobs and his wife Diana purchased the remaining five acres of the ranch in 2002 and have fastidiously restored the property over the past 11 years.

Today, the site is home to a thriving berry farm that surrounds a dairy/creamery, bunkhouse, barn and restored ranch house.

Aside from the berry crop, the Jacobs family has branched out into event hosting, welcoming weddings, family reunions and parties on the grounds.

“Ag Tourism is a whole new thing,” Jacobs said. “For people contemplating getting into this, it’s a different kind of commitment than just farming.

“This is something we are passionate about. We feel a responsibility to share the history of this place – to help bring people back in time a step. I’d hope there are other properties in the Valley that can do something like what we are attempting here.

“The thing that is hard to translate until you are in it is that renting out your property like this is like selling your house every day. The property has to look perfect every day, because you just never know who is going to call. It’s 365 days of maintenance.”

But, as Jacobs shows the property, pointing out the various details and antiques that have come to flavor the property while recounting the many stories he’s learned about the place, the passion becomes almost tangible.

He’s pored over the books he can find – not to mention the many leftover tools and artifacts he’s found in the property’s many outbuildings. He’s hosted members of the Lampe family and attentively learned the stories they have about the property.

 
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“It’s an emerging area to sustain a piece of property like this,” he said. “Probably the best way to do it is to share it. People love it. Everybody that comes here just really enjoys it.

“The key is just being willing to share it, to allow it to happen. At the same time, you don’t want it to turn into Disneyland. The visitors authority people talk about an authentic experience. You want to create something authentic, to share it and still live here. It’s a balance you have to figure out.”

Jack Jacobs talks about the quality of construction inside the Lampe Barn on the Jacobs Family Berry Farm.

Jack Jacobs talks about the quality of construction inside the Lampe Barn on the Jacobs Family Berry Farm.

The Jacobs family originally bought the property as a home for their parents, who frequently had to travel from Big Pine to Reno for doctor’s appointments or shopping.

“They were into their 80s and we lived in Danville (Calif.) in the Bay area,” Jacobs said. “We’d come through here a lot to visit them and just fell in love with the area.

“We started to think about retiring here some day and ended up buying the place. We put a lot of work into it, came out on weekends.”

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Jack Jacobs talks about the fence he and his family were able to build using old fencing material they found in the community

They restored the ranch house, which was actually three structures or four structures they were able to wrap into one. They had clapboard siding milled for the exterior to make it one continuous structure and hand cut over 5,000 wooden pickets for the white fencing around the house.

“It wasn’t as much of a remodel as it was a refurbishment,” Jacobs said. “A lot of what you see around here has been re-purposed. We like to re-use things in as many different ways as possible. It saves a little money and preserves some of the heritage.”BErryFarm5-cvt-090313

Over time, the Jacobs started to add more projects to the overall refurbishment of the property.

“We started thinking this is sort of an expensive place to just take care of, so we started thinking of ways we could generate some income.”

Jacobs, a retired civil engineer who’d overseen large water systems such as the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, keyed in on berries.

“We had this alfalfa field I knew we could do something with,” he said. “I looked into it and there was no good information out there about growing berries in Carson Valley. Other parts of the country could get a large yield out of it though, so I set about figuring out how to do it here.”

He and his family worked the field for all of 2009, just working the soil. They continued into 2010 and planted their first raspberry bushes that year.

“Just given my background, I love that sort of thinking process,” Jacobs said. “I love detail, and the focus on infrastructure.”

The berry field at Jacobs Family Berry Farm

The berry field at Jacobs Family Berry Farm

They started with seven rows of berries, just to see what would happen. In 2011, they planted the rest of the field. In 2012 they received a grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. They used the grant to plant additional berries and construct a hoop house.

That same year, they hauled in their first commercial harvest – 1,000 baskets of raspberries and blackberries.

Old horse troughs have been converted into planters on the property.

Old horse troughs have been converted into planters on the property.

“The plants are getting more mature, we are harvesting more this year and will finish with more than last year,” Jacobs said.

As the berry farm developed, the Jacobs began thinking about renting the property out for events. In that, the immaculate barn has become the hallmark piece of the property.

“We hosted a wedding in 2011 and just thought it was a fun event,” Jacobs said. “It was a nice family and they loved it. It’s something that’s hard to explain. You drive down that driveway in here and it’s just a different feeling than when you were out on the highway.

“We really try to connect with people and we enjoy people enjoying themselves here.”

The barn, more than 100 years old and in flawless condition, is outfitted with electricity and a wooden dance floor.

The barn, more than 100 years old and in flawless condition, is outfitted with electricity and a wooden dance floor.

They navigated the permitting process through the county and began booking weddings this year.

“We’re limiting it to seven weddings per year,” Jacobs said. “It gives us some time to recover and prepare, and also still run the farm.”

This summer, the family has been refurbishing the property’s creamery building in order to use it to sell the berries and jams out of.

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The grain elevator in the barn is still in working order, although it is in the process of being re-wired. Jack Jacobs said he’d love to track down more of the history of the equipment, as he believes it may have come from the Minden mill.

“We like the idea of people actually coming on the farm to buy the food,” Jacobs said. “Hopefully we create an idea here that others may also be able to try. Maybe we re-establish some old ideas of going out to the farm to shop, and just getting out to see this old place.

“A ton of people have no idea we are here. Part of their enjoyment in coming back here is just returning week after week to buy berries. They like showing off their hidden treasure, bringing their kids.”

The creamery building where the Jacobs family plans to sell berries and jams.

The creamery building where the Jacobs family plans to sell berries and jams.

Many of the tools that were in use for the lifetime of the Lampe Ranch still sit where they were when the property initially closed.

Many of the tools that were in use for the lifetime of the Lampe Ranch still sit where they were when the property initially closed.

For more information on Jacobs Berry Farm, or for more of the property’s history, visit www.jacobsberries.com.  Jack Jacobs said they were in the middle of a large harvest. Berries and jams are available for purchase from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

The intricately fitted joints of the barn have not moved much since their construction more than 100 years ago.

The intricately fitted joints of the barn have not moved much since their construction more than 100 years ago.

The pillars within the barn came marked for instructional purposes for those who assembled it more than 100 years ago.

The pillars within the barn came marked for instructional purposes for those who assembled it more than 100 years ago.

A working outhouse still stands adjacent to the berry field.

A working outhouse still stands adjacent to the berry field.

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The inside of the creamery building on the property, where the Jacobs family plans to sell its goods.

The inside of the creamery building on the property, where the Jacobs family plans to sell its goods.

This article has 0 comments

  1. The wife and I have a subscription to the berry farm. Every Friday we get a fresh print of the latest harvest. One of life’s great treats.

  2. The wife and I have a subscription to the berry farm. Every Friday we get a fresh print of the latest harvest. One of life’s great treats.

  3. The berries are delicious! We’ve gotten raspberries and blackberries depending on what’s available. We have a 1/2 sub that gets us 2 pints/week but you can get a whole subscription as well, and there’s jam, honey, and pies. A beautiful spot and really friendly folks!

  4. The berries are delicious! We’ve gotten raspberries and blackberries depending on what’s available. We have a 1/2 sub that gets us 2 pints/week but you can get a whole subscription as well, and there’s jam, honey, and pies. A beautiful spot and really friendly folks!

  5. That does it. Next time I’m on the big bend I’m signaling, slowing down, and turning into the lane. Thank you for a great feature on the people and their place in our valley.

  6. That does it. Next time I’m on the big bend I’m signaling, slowing down, and turning into the lane. Thank you for a great feature on the people and their place in our valley.

  7. Jack is such a great guy and the berries…. SO delicious! Glad you could expose them to more people with this article!

  8. Jack is such a great guy and the berries…. SO delicious! Glad you could expose them to more people with this article!