Harley shares the details of organic blueberry production, from weed control and management of mummy berry and spotted wing drosophila through the GAP-certified harvest that provides access to institutional markets. Bow Hill’s blueberry bushes were mostly planted in the 1940s, which provides a great marketing opportunity – heirlooms! – but also presents challenges when it comes to keeping the harvest crew happy, and Harley and Susan dig deep into how they work with their labor crew to maximize the harvest and keep worker satisfaction high.
Susan walks us through how they market their fresh and frozen berries to institutions including Microsoft’s food service and the Seattle Seahawks, as well how they created their unique line of value-added products, and how they have established a differentiated presence in the marketplace, even though Washington State is the United States’ largest producer of organic blueberries.
We also discuss how Bow Hill has developed and enhanced their u-pick market and on-farm sales, as well as how they’ve turned purslane to their advantage.
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Quotes from the Show
[Harley] We transitioned to organic from day one. That's the only way we would do things.
[Harley] I started to realize that [the employees are] out there with their hands in it, looking at it. I'm out there every day, too, but they're really intimate with the plants. They manage the pick.
[Susan] That's what you hear growing up, that the middleman is the bad guy. Well, somebody has got to deliver this stuff, and it's not for free.
[Susan] If any kid wants to be a picker at our farm, I will interview them and I'll tell them they'll go out with the professionals and they'll be treated like a professional.
[Harley] We could sell the whole field frozen in little bags easily, but it doesn't keep people working all year.
Harley’s favorite tool is the Blueberry Cultivator from Hillside Cultivator Company – he says it saved the farm!