KINSMAN — A local teenager has found a way to capitalize on a popular summer treat with his own business.
Ethan Sloan, 17, who will be a senior this year at Badger High School, in spring 2021 planted 1,000 Earliglow strawberries and this year, 2,000 in his family’s large yard.
“I felt I could make a little more money doing this on my own than a minimum wage job,” he said. “I was looking for a way to make money that I wouldn’t have to be 18 or older to do. There is room on the property to grow strawberries, and we had a small strawberry patch before that did well.”
The 2021 strawberries are growing this year and doing well — with Sloan estimating having 400 quart-size containers of more than 50 strawberries. This year’s strawberries will yield next year.
He will be even busier in 2023 with the 2,000 he planted this year.
“Strawberries are really popular now. When people heard what I was doing, they got their orders in,” Sloan said.
He has named his business Mansikka Farms — which is a Finnish word for strawberry.
Rebecca Nieminen, Sloan’s mom, said her son has a list of people who have already ordered strawberries for this year, so he won’t be taking any more orders now.
“The strawberries start getting ripe at the end of May or early June,” Nieminen said.
Sloan said people use strawberries for pies, jam, smoothies and on cereal and shortcake.
Sloan spends eight or more hours in the patch each day, alternating work in different areas every other day.
He said 70-degree weather is good for growing strawberries, but not when temperatures reach into the 90s. Sloan added that it’s also easier to pick strawberries when it’s not extremely hot.
Sloan also had to deal with a few nights in May with frost.
“There is a lot of hours to put in each day to do this and make sure the plants are doing all right,” Sloan said, noting strawberries grow an entire year, including through the winter.
He said the fresh Earliglow strawberries he is able to grow taste different than those bought at a store.
“The fresh strawberries have a much better taste,” he said.
Sloan said he sells each quart for $6 and has more than 70 orders.
“Many local residents are happy Ethan is selling them here and they don’t have to drive far. I am really proud of him. He has done all of this by himself and came up with the idea on his own. He has been very motivated and organized about this and really hardworking,” Nieminen said.
Sloan said each plant varies on how many strawberries are on it, and they often vary in size.
He said another challenge is dealing with bugs, birds and animals going after the strawberries.
“There are so many (strawberries), so if we do lose some, it doesn’t make that much of a difference,” he said.
A rabbit built its nest near the patch and some of the baby rabbits were after the fruit.
Throughout the summer, Sloan said he will keep the gardens mulched and weeded, and in the fall he will fertilize. He said summer is the busiest time of the year.
Sloan said he plans to plant an additional 500 strawberries this year in the yard.
“It is a great idea to use that extra area of the yard and make some money off of it. Otherwise we would just end up having to cut it and waste gas doing that,” Nieminen said.
Sloan said he wants to study engineering and business in college and run his own business.