DALE ILA RIGGS and DON MILES
The Berry Patch is a thriving, productive farm in Stephentown, NY - a farm that has successfully evolved since 1996. As you drive along Highway 22 in Eastern New York, you'll notice the farm's greenhouses, the berry and vegetable tunnels and the farm store which sells produce and goods through Summer into Fall. Owned and operated by Dale Ila Riggs and her husband Don Miles, The Berry Patch is an exceptional farm due to the couple's creative ingenuity, years of experience and hard work.
Enter any of the greenhouses and what's striking is the quality of the crops. Rows of kale, collards, chard, lettuce, escarole, mesclun and greens growing side by side, and all are thriving. The berry crops - strawberries, blueberries and raspberries - are flourishing as well.
Celebrated chefs in the Berkshires know all about the quality of produce grown at The Berry Patch, and the care in harvesting, so you'll find the farm's berries and greens listed on menus across Berkshire County. Regulars at the farm store in Stephentown and the Troy Farmer's Market are loyal fans as well. Dale Ila and Don have made it easy and affordable to buy the farms produce and goods at the farm store - their "Free Choice" CSA members can apply their membership credit towards any products, in any amount, at either the farm store or the Troy Farmer's Market.
Dale Ila's career in agriculture began in college at Cornell, and she has worked as an educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension for many years. Presently, she is president of the New York State Berry Growers Association, and is actively involved in agricultural initiatives in the region. Don's background is in botany, soil science and public health, and he recently turned his efforts full time to the farm, implementing successful production and delivery practices to meet growing demand.
Presently Dale Ila and Don are focused on effectively solving challenges farmers face with invasive insects. Research and testing of materials to protect crops has led to the development of a fine mesh netting that protects crops, safeguarding farmers from potential losses from crop damage. Their new company, Berry Protection Solutions, markets the netting and educates farmers on healthy options for protecting crops.
We hope you will stop by our farm store on Route 22 in Stephentown in Summer, or visit us at the Troy Farmer's Market any time of the year. Our use of greenhouses and tunnels extends our production season, and our produce is always rich in flavor because of the care we give our crops.
PRESS & AWARDS
Dale Ila Riggs/ President
NEW YORK STATE BERRY GROWERS ASSOCIATION
FARM CREDIT 100 FRESH PERSPECTIVES
Dale Ila M. Riggs/ Farmer and Owner, The Berry Patch
"Dale Ila M. Riggs is a first generation farmer who took a worn out corn field and built a thriving 230-acre berry, vegetable and cut flower operation called The Berry Patch. As an innovator in production methods, Dale-Ila was among the first in the U.S. to use high tunnels for raspberry and winter greens. Using low tunnels for strawberry production, she sells strawberries six months a year and her offers her other premium produce at the local Farmer’s Market and to 20 prestigious restaurants 52 weeks a year. A successful entrepreneur, she began selling produce to restaurants while still in graduate school.
“As a farmer who supplies premium quality berries and vegetables to consumers, I hope to help create long-term memories of fantastic meals and food experiences for our customers,” says Dale-Ila. “An ulterior motive for doing this is to indirectly teach the public that they can both attain and enjoy healthy eating habits.”
Dale-Ila is also an industry leader, currently serving as president of the New York State Berry Growers, where her leadership and innovation have been especially effective. The invasion of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), a crop-damaging fruit fly, left the berry industry reeling. Dale-Ila approached Cornell to learn what was needed to fight this pest to keep the industry vibrant. Through innovative communication, persuasiveness and persistence, she convinced the New York Senate and the Invasive Species Council to commit $1.3 million over three years to fund research into controlling this pest.
“I have a problem solver mindset so I just couldn’t idly stand by when such a threat to the industry became evident,” Dale-Ila says. “I’m inspired to advocate for funding for research for a long-term solution for managing this invasive insect because without a solution, the berry industry throughout the nation will be drastically reduced. I ultimately hope to achieve a long-term solution for a stable funding source for applied research for agriculture.”
On her own farm, Dale-Ila conducted USDA research to exclude SWD from blueberries. The results are used nationwide to teach growers how to manage this pest. In workshops she helped organize, 96 percent of growers expressed confidence in knowing how to manage this pest.
While working for Cornell, she was the first woman to win the National Crop Production Award for her research and education program in pumpkin production. She was also the editor and primary writer of the “Pumpkin Production Guide,” which earned three national awards.
“Farmers who are innovative, action oriented and looking to the future have multitudes of opportunities, as long as they run their operation as a business first,” Dale-Ila says. “I think that farmers who are good at taking calculated risks and who are innovative communicators need to be identified and rewarded for working with legislators to create stable funding for investing in applied research for agriculture – that is where our future will be created.”"
BERRY PROTECTION SOLUTIONS
Berry Protection Solutions is designing insect management systems using "... Cornell research collaborations and the money to support them. After all, berries are worth $15 million; the market is growing. Per capita consumption of blueberries alone is up 411 percent since 2000. Results? IPM solutions already benefiting berry growers across New York and the Northeast." Excellence in the Berry Patch/ 2016/ cornell.edu
Tireless Advocate Tackles Tiny Pest, Earns Excellence in IPM Award/ (PDF file) 2016/ Cornell.edu
Berry grower pioneers integrated pest management/ 2016/ HortiDaily
Excellence in the Berry Patch/ 2016/ Cornell.edu
Using exclusion netting helps manage SWD in blueberries/ 2015/ Fruit Growers News
The use of insect netting on existing bird netting support systems to exclude spotted-wing Drosophila from a mature small-scale commercial highbush blueberry planting/ Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education