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Since I moved to the Harrison area, my mother-in-law Sharon has been promising me fresh blueberries. There are several blueberry farms in the area that allow customers to pick their own berries, which generally ripen in June. We formed a coalition of would-be berry pickers, including Sharon’s mother Bonnie and daughter Cassie. Bonnie wanted to collect blueberries to freeze for making smoothies and Cassie wanted to bake blueberry muffins for an elderly neighbor, while Sharon and I had our hearts set on attempting a blueberry Dutch baby recipe we had seen in a magazine.
Sharon typically visits Cline Berry Farm each summer for blueberries, so she began early in the month checking their website to see when they might start offering U-Pick days. The second day of U-Pick, we headed out just before seven o’clock when the farm opens, located conveniently close to the downtown Harrison area. As we drove, Sharon supplied me with information on the Clines’ operation: for $12, pickers are given a gallon bucket and led to a location in the rows of bushes where there are plenty of berries. Pickers are supposed to strip all the ripe berries off a bush before moving to the next bush, so the Clines can keep track of rows that have been picked. Sampling is encouraged.
When we arrived at Cline Berry Farm, we sadly regarded a sign that read “U-Pick Closed.” Mrs. Cline met us at the fields and explained that the previous day, U-Pick customers nearly cleaned them out of blueberries. There were only enough ripe berries now to fill orders, for which a gallon bucket of blueberries sold for $18. These we could see: buckets, with blueberries piled high over the brim, waiting to be claimed by their fortunate purchasers. Mrs. Cline was happy to discuss with us her four varieties of blueberries, and showed me a Collins blueberry bush, the sweetest type. Unripe small green berries and large dark blueberries clustered on the branches, which allows the farm to have waves of blueberries ripening at different times. The rows were well maintained, with mulch around the bases of the bushes and the dew-laden grass mown. I was so sorry not to be picking blueberries.
A few days later, we still had blueberries on our minds. A scan of the Cline’s Berry Report revealed a cryptic message, that they were no longer taking orders for berries. Did this mean they were completely out of berries for picking, too? Sharon mentioned we might try another place and called Fenton’s Berry Farm, which grows blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and other produce. Fenton’s was open, and they were happy to say they had blueberries and blackberries ripe for the U-Pick. Soon Sharon, Bonnie, Cassie, and I were once again heading for blueberry fields. This time, we were successful in picking to our hearts’ content, beginning with the enormous sweet blackberries that grew on thornless bushes before progressing to the blueberries. The bases of the bushes weren’t very tidy, and the grass seemed a bit high, but we had no difficulty perusing the rows of bushes and claiming juicy rewards.
We were allowed to pick wherever we wanted, so Sharon insisted we focus on plucking the “Prime Selects,” or the choicest morsels. I noticed that Bonnie was a very efficient picker, using one hand to delicately and swiftly strip a branch of berries before dropping her handful into the bucket, while Cassie and I slowly selected a berry, picked it, and dropped it. Bird song and the conversation of two teenage boys discussing The Hobbit movies as they picked berries drifted over the rows to us. After about ten minutes, the boys’ talk had turned to Harry Potter, and my bucket was heavy and full. We paid $3 per pound of berries.
Berry season will be concluding soon. Since both berry farms have an active social media presence, it’s pretty easy to check up on days that they’re open and what they’re currently providing. Today, Fenton’s U-Pick is closed and Cline’s is open. I’ll have to see which is open tomorrow, because I’ve nearly run out of berries.
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