Growing Raspberries in North Carolina
While there is limited commercial raspberry production in North Carolina, interest in raspberries continues to grow as more consumers demand a local supply of fresh, high quality fruit. Many ready-buyers for red raspberries have moved to North Carolina from other regions, such as the Northeast and Midwest, where this fruit is highly treasured.
Raspberries are potentially a very high-value crop, but they are also one of the most difficult small fruit crops to grow in North Carolina. The fruit is soft and highly perishable, the plant and fruit are susceptible to many disease and insect pests, and the climate throughout the state presents physiological demands in terms of high and low temperatures that make production a challenge. Furthermore, raspberries are a very labor-intensive crop that can easily require more than over 80 hours per acre annually just for pruning, training, and trellis management. The harvest of fresh raspberries is extremely labor intensive; an average picker will only harvest and field pack about 11 to 12 pounds of fruit per hour.
Commercial raspberry production is more common in western North Carolina's mountains and foothills, although there are many small U-pick raspberry plantings in populous areas in the piedmont region as well. Raspberries are not commonly grown in the piedmont and coastal plain areas, because most raspberry varieties are poorly suited to the warm temperatures in these areas. Raspberries belong to the genus Rubus, which also includes blackberries. They differ from blackberries in that the receptacle tissue stays attached to the plant when raspberries are picked, leaving a hole or hollow core in the fruit. Cultivated raspberries are classified as red, black, purple, or yellow.