If you love fresh wild blueberries, hopefully you enjoyed some this summer – perhaps poured over some ice cream or baked in a decadent pie crust.
The blueberry season is a short one in Massachusetts, starting around mid-July and lasting just three or four weeks. And there are only a few low bush blueberry farms left in the Commonwealth – including one right in Granville, MA.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: If you love fresh, wild blueberries, hopefully you had a chance to enjoy some this summer — Maybe poured over some ice cream or in one of your favorite baked goods.
The blueberry season is a short one in Massachusetts starting around mid-July and lasting just three or four weeks. Sadly, there are only a few low bush blueberry farms left in the Commonwealth.
Producer Dave Fraser paid a visit to one such farm still in operation Sandman’s wild blueberries and brings us this story.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: High on a hill in Granville, Massachusetts, sits a 30-acre field of wild, low bush blueberries. These hardy, low berries are generally smaller than their high bush cousins and their advocates say are juicier and more flavorful.
For Gordon Sandman, harvesting low bush blueberries on this land dates back as far as he can remember.
Gordon Sandman, Sandman’s Wild Blueberries: My folks bought the — the land from my grandfather and I got it from them, so there’s actually like at least four generations here and probably more.
Put your scoop in and gradually tilt it and pull it back.
I’ve been doing it since I was five years old. Quality control. It’s what my family did, and I was in retail for a lot of years and I just retired out of that and said, “This is what I’m going to do.”
Dave Fraser: The low bush blueberries grow low to the ground in sunny, dry uplands. They are harvested by running a scoop through the plant, being careful not to take too much grass.
Once the scoop is full, the berries are dumped into a box and covered to prevent discoloration.
The picking day starts early.
Gordon Sandman: I get out here, I get the boxes ready for the pickers to roll in, and we head out and start picking. The cleaning crew comes in here. If we have berries ready for them, they start cleaning, and this machine starts humming and it doesn’t stop until the end of the day.
Well, you’re watching Eric, he’s dumping the berries in here. They fall down – we have a belt turning the opposite way where a lot of the stems and clumps and green ones go out into a trash bucket here.
The good berries come down on the grading belt where they pick out everything that’s not supposed to go into that box.
Dave Fraser: Sandman’s Wild Blueberries is one of only a handful of low bush blueberry harvesters left in the state.
Gordon Sandman: Back in the day, say, in the late fifties, early sixties, everybody had a blueberry farm here.
And due to circumstances, we had a lot of weed control problems, disease problems. They started just fading out, diminishing. There’s two of us left in town here, and there’s probably only four left in the state.
My daughter and son-in-law are very much interested in it now, so that makes me feel good.
Amy Ferraraccio, Sandman’s Wild Blueberries: It’s a family business and family is very important to me. So, carrying that on family tradition and then there’s so much potential with the blueberries.
My dad has a vision of what he thinks his farm can be, and I know that it has a lot more potential. So, adding on those value added products and going into experimenting with wine, looking into that, looking into jams and other products that we can make with the blueberries, too.
Dave Fraser: The blueberries from Sandman’s make their way into the recipes of a lot of local establishments, including cocktails at the bar shop and ice cream sundaes at the Summer House in Southwick.
Steven Grimaldi: Our business has been around for 42 years there in the fourth or fifth generation of blueberry farming for their family. So, it kind of just was logical that we would go with a local business and try to support them because so many people have supported us in our small business also.
We use it on blueberry sundaes, a blueberry shortcake sundae and it’s been very, very popular.
Dave Fraser: After 32 days of picking the blueberry season, Sandman’s is officially done for the season, according to their Facebook page.
Every year brings its challenges, they say, but it is a labor of love and one they look forward to year after year.
Gordon Sandman: What’s a hectic three weeks? If I get more than three weeks, I’m a happy guy. Less than three weeks? Not so much.
So, I keep plugging away at it and putting whatever money we make right back into it so that every year we get better and better and better.