Family owned and operated for more than 100 years, Driscoll’s is passionate about growing great berries. The tradition of family farming endures to this day with a new generation of growers that are committed to growing the freshest, sweetest berries available year ’round. Meet Brie Reiter Smith, eldest of four children, and daughter of Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter. Owners of BerrySmith, Brie and her husband Brian recently moved to Chile in Ovalle, Coquimbo Region to grow blueberries. With two commercial fields, the couple began their first harvest this past growing season. Here is her adventure and what it is like to come from a heritage of farmers.
My connection to the farmland and berries was very strong growing up. My Dad would usually invite us to come to work with him on Saturdays. We’d pick berries, eat lunch from the taco truck and spend the rest of the time grazing in the test plot where we would see new berry varieties growing. Going home with fresh picked berries meant cooking good stuff – all natural, pure ingredients for great flavors. Family recipes include raspberry jams, blackberry pies and the most delicious strawberry ice cream made from my dad’s secret recipe.
There was never a doubt I would continue the heritage of farming but I thought it would be part of the corporate office. My husband Brian and I share an affinity for working outside and we wanted to understand the position of a grower – from field to consumer and what it was really like.
Blueberries are increasingly popular on a global level and it was an interesting challenge to be growing internationally. Chile is a spectacular place to live. Chileans value natural flavors and their communities are beginning to advocate healthy lifestyles. We also get to work on our Spanish-speaking skills (or lack thereof). It’s been a humbling experience coming to a foreign country and learning how to live and work in another language.
There is absolutely no difference in being a female farmer other than being referred to as "Miss" while my husband Brian is called "Don Brian". When you are out in the field and something has to get done, it’s not about gender but more about how to divide up the work. We've gotten to know some hardworking husband-wife teams that set a great example in the local area.
There is an incredible amount of effort that goes into growing and harvesting a top-notch berry. I am most impressed with the pride each berry picker takes in selecting the fruit. Trust me, if the picked berries aren’t perfect, Driscoll’s doesn’t hesitate to reject it if it doesn’t meet the criteria. By the time berries reach the supermarket, typically only one person in the field has actually touched that berry. Not only are Driscoll’s proprietary varieties superior, but consumers can be certain that Driscoll’s has done everything in its power to insure that only the finest berries are shipped to supermarkets.
I’ve learned that there really is no typical day at the farm, especially with the changing dynamics of weather. We are up by dawn and spend long days in the field. Our farms are about an hour away from our house, so we have a room in the field that we sometimes spend the night in so we can wake-up directly in the fields. Field packing, tunnel building, irrigation set-up, building boxes, and weighing clamshells are all part of growing berries.
For the folks eating your berries, what would you want each person to know about the berries?
We hope they enjoy them as much as we do!