Investigating the feasibility of berry production in Central Oregon under protected and unprotected culture

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2018: $49,998.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Clare Sullivan
Oregon State University


  • Fruits: berries (brambles), berries (strawberries)


  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems


    Central Oregon’s challenging growing conditions include: 1) a very short growing season (70-100 days); 2) average annual precipitation of ~11 inches; 3) drastic swings in diurnal temperatures; 4) possibility of frost anytime of year; and 5) sandy soils low in organic matter. The USDA plant hardiness zones in Central Oregon range from 3 to 5, with pasture and forages as the traditional crops grown in the area. Despite the challenging growing conditions, there is fresh-market produce grown in Central Oregon, and there is strong demand from the community through farmer markets, CSAs, restaurant buyers, and wholesale accounts. While some vegetables are grown very well in the region, there is almost no fruit being produced in Central Oregon, despite strong demand. Growers report that farmers’ market patrons with federal nutrition assistance benefit vouchers want to use their vouchers to purchase berries. 
    Raspberries and strawberries are the most suitable berries for Central Oregon due to their cold hardiness, but yield loss due to winter injury and frosts are a major concern. Elsewhere in the US, protected culture has been used to extend the berry growing season and improve yields. In Central Oregon, high tunnels are currently used to grow multiple high-value vegetable crops in one season, so farmers are not likely to plant a perennial crop in a high tunnel unless proven profitable. This project aims to determine whether berry production in Central Oregon is an economically viable enterprise, and if high tunnels are a justified expense to increase profitability and fruit quality.

    Project objectives:

    1. To evaluate raspberry and strawberry production in both protected and unprotected culture systems in Central OR, including berry yield and quality, in order to help growers choose the most successful production systems.
    2. To compare multiple cultivars of raspberry and strawberry for suitability to Central OR, including adaptability, berry yield and quality, in order to help growers make cultivar selections for production success.
    3. To perform economic evaluation of both protected and unprotected berry production in Central OR, and determine whether protected culture is a justified investment.
    4. To observe differences in pest management challenges in protected and unprotected culture.
    5. To conduct local, regional and interstate outreach of berry crop research in the high desert through field days, workshops, presentations, and fact sheets.
    6. To increase the supply of fresh fruit as a healthy food option for Central OR residents.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.