With summer under way, officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) reported that blueberries are arriving right on time for sale to consumers and local food producers.
"The purchasing of locally grown fruit like blueberries through a wide range of local food markets not only helps support our local growers, but also contributes to the rich agricultural heritage of the commonwealth," said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson. "And blueberry season marks the arrival of summer in Massachusetts."
Massachusetts' Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP) was designed to help consumers identify Massachusetts agricultural and seafood products that are responsibly produced, harvested and processed locally. The program also requires that participants meet both geographic and sustainability requirements.
"It's looking to be a bountiful, beautiful crop of blueberries again this year," said Peg Ventresco of Ward's Berry Farm in Sharon. "They are sizing up nicely and the bushes are loaded."
"The blueberries appear to be on a more normal schedule due to the cool to cold nights in the mid-40s and predominantly cool, rainy June," said Gene Kosinski of Kosinski Farms in Westfield. "We should have some crops available the first week of July and sell throughout New England to a wide range of customers, including culinary sales."
Many local food businesses purchase fresh blueberries wholesale in order to make products from jams to pastries. With around 130 local farms offering fresh blueberries, plenty of locations offer Massachusetts-grown fruit wholesale rather than importing from other states. Based on the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture and the 2011 New England Agricultural Statistics, annual sales of blueberries in the commonwealth result in an impressive $4 million from 604 harvested acres.
"We do use all Massachusetts-grown blueberries in our products, and we can't wait until it is blueberry season again so we can start making our yummy blueberry jams and conserves," said Doves & Figs founder Robin Cohen. "When I started Doves & Figs I wanted to work only with local farmers, as I feel that the sense of place is so important, especially with heirloom varieties or a native fruit such as blueberries."
Blueberry picking is a great activity for the family, perfect for enjoying the fresh taste of one of the commonwealth's native fruits in the summer sun. Local farmers' markets, roadside farm stands or pick-your-own operations are great places to find fresh blueberries. Massachusetts growers are welcoming visitors from across the commonwealth and beyond to experience their fresh, locally grown fruit. The locations of blueberry farms and information on events and festivals can be found at www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/map.htm