With slipper weather nipping at our heels, the blueberry season has come and gone. It’s hard to believe. But what a season!
After being cooped up, I think that everyone was searching for things to do that were local, outside, fun and safe. When Sabrina posted on Balderson Blueberries Facebook that our opening day was July 26th, there were over 22,000 views. 22,000! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The morning that I opened, the rising sun had barely touched the field. I looked around and wondered what the day would bring. Everything was ready. The plants were laden with beautiful, ripe berries, the grass was freshly mowed, the weigh station was set up at the field entrance. The Merry Blueberry cafe was restocked with baked goods and homemade blueberry ice cream. Jars of jams, syrups and butters lined the shelves and the smell of percolating blueberry coffee wafted in the air. I controlled my breathing to quell my nerves. I missed Sabrina’s physical presence but we had spoken at length and she was standing by to post updates as needed. Max and Nancy would be manning the shop again and that was reassuring. Last year they operated together like a well oiled machine and it was immensely comforting to know they had it covered.
At exactly 9am the cars started rolling in and the season began. People came in droves but the afternoon 40 degree weather helped keep the volume at a manageable level. The day was frantic, rewarding, exhausting and successful. As the season progressed, it got busier and busier as word spread and people started coming earlier hoping to get some berries before we sold out. Our last day open to the public, the line up started at 8:07am and by the time we opened at 9am, Sabrina had to post that we were at capacity. By 11:30am we were picked out. Seeing the fields full and the community enjoying the experience so fully was the realization of my dream and I’m incredibly grateful to all who have supported me past, present, and future. The hardest part of the season for me was disappointing those who came and then couldn’t get in.
The most common question I was asked this year was – will I be expanding? The short answer is, I already have. I’ve put 500 more plants in the ground since my initial planting in 2015 but they aren’t producing yet. People were surprised to find how costly and labor intensive the process is, and also that it takes at least five years before a plant produces. Will I keep expanding? My plan is to plant an additional 400 plants next year but after that, it’s anybody’s guess. I have always believed that if I could grow blueberries, I could sell them. But after this year I know for sure that I can turn this little blueberry farm into whatever size I choose. But what I want my life to look like moving forward can be as changeable as the weather. It depends on the day and how I feel.
What was my take away this season? I learned that my planned opening of four days a week is unrealistic. I sell out of every ripe berry in one day and it takes a week for enough berries to ripen again to sustain another picking day. I learned that a five person team is perfect. Two for the shop, one for the weigh station, one to take people out to the field, and one to direct parking. I learned that it’s impossible to please everyone and I need to be ok with that and not stress about it. My best is all that I can ask of myself. And I learned that no matter how many blueberries I eat, I never get sick of them. But honestly, I already knew that.