The 1779 cornerstone in the barn foundation.

Farm buildings in 1981.
See how the sugar maples along the driveway have grown!

The barn in 1981 with its old slate roof.

Ernest Brown's dirt floor equipment shed in 1981. This building is now the core of our berry shed.

Our first supermarket berry load in 1989.
Lucas is six months old.

Before the store was heated, heavy snows slid off the metal roof and formed these "snow commas."
Sand Hill Berries is a family farm located in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, on the eastern side of the Chestnut Ridge, close to the town of Mt. Pleasant. The farm has a long history…one of the cornerstones is carved 1779. Originally 400 acres, one of the present borders of the farm is one of General Braddock’s routes to Fort Duquesne (Fort Pitt) during the French and Indian War. The previous land’s agriculture use was as a dairy farm. After the passing of the owners, the farm was leased for almost ten years to corn and grains and mowed for hay. Parts of it lay dormant for those years and were overrun by wild rose and blackberry. From 1981 on, the farm was slowly but surely brought back into production with re-seeding, lime, potassium, and phosphorus. Goats and sheep were instrumental in the revival of pasture land. The farm is now home to meat goats, pygmy goats, sheep, horses, a few cows, a llama, an adopted dog, and numerous barn cats.

In 1986, Sand Hill Berries began with 5 acres of red raspberries and 2 acres of black raspberries. Thirteen years later, the last of the original planting was removed in the fall and replanted this spring with a newer variety. The mainstay crop remains raspberries, but blackberries, red currants, gooseberries, black currants, heirloom apples, strawberries, and a few stone fruits, seedless grapes have been added since 1986. IN 1998, we planted six acres of black currants for processing, and in the next few years we hope to add a consistent kiwi berry crop, blueberries, and perhaps more grapes.

Sand Hill Berries began processing products in 1991. Preserving and baking is a family tradition. Originally, there was no retail store and so there needed to be a use for fruit that did not qualify for lengthy shelf life. We first revived the recipes for Raspberry Shrub and re- named it Raspberry Claret. All of our excess crop was turned in to claret and sold to the Williams-Sonoma retail stores. The next year we began making Country fruit, our own seedless, lower in sugar jam for a local basket company. All of our products are made here on the farm in our own kitchen. We cook in truly small batches; for jams and jellies, this means 5 to 8 jars per batch. Our efforts are worthwhile, because when you sample our products you will think that it is rare to find such fresh, intense fruit taste in jars and bottles. A Pittsburgh food writer found our operation interesting, and her article about us initiated a retail farm store business where we first sold ripe fruit and jam quality fruit. At the same time, we began making desserts with topping made from our own fruit and selling them at southwestern Pa festivals to a public hungry for home baking and especially for fruit pies. Many people have often first heard of Sand Hill Berries at these events. We now bake daily for our farm store and in 1999, we opened an outdoor cafe for customers who would like to relax a bit before heading home.

We grow our fruit with a lot of expense and care…raspberries demand it. We are not organic, but we use Integrated Pest Management controls, a system of fungus and insect control that uses as few insecticides as possible. All of our fields are irrigated so that during drought years we will always have some crop. Grass strips between rows prevent erosion. The use of trellising makes for easier picking and clean berries. We also cultivate patience, since raspberries do not reach normal production until their third year. Our emphasis on planting is now to find varieties that will extend the raspberry season in both directions-early and late- so that you will be able to enjoy your favorite fruit almost all summer.