Fields Fields Blueberries: A Labor of Love in Maine’s Wild Blueberry Community
Known for its breathtaking natural beauty and abundance of charming small towns, Maine is a wondrous place that offers many bountiful gifts to its seasonal visitors – like the place-based superfood, wild blueberries, that grow and spread naturally in the Midcoast and Downeast regions of Maine. Fields Fields Blueberries, a family-owned organic wild blueberry farm, has operated on the hills of Dresden, Maine, since the early 1970s, and became certified organic in 2000. Over the last few years, Ashley Field has transformed this grower-only farm into a thriving commercial business.
We sat down with Ashley to learn more about her journey and the unique aspects and offerings of Fields Fields Blueberries.
A Surprising Path to Wild Fruit Farming
Ashley’s connection to agriculture runs deep, having grown up on an organic dairy farm in western Maine for the majority of her life. However, it was her husband Jesse’s family’s wild blueberry farm that captured her interest and imagination. Initially, the farm was managed as a hobby by Jesse’s father, with occasional harvests being sold to bigger processors. Sensing an opportunity, Ashley approached her husband’s family seven years ago with the idea of turning the farm into a commercial venture. With their blessing, she took the reins of Fields Fields Blueberries and turned the project into a true passion, fueled by her creative drive and the supportive wild blueberry community in Maine.
A Fields Family Affair
In any family business, everyone plays a role, and Fields Fields Blueberries is no exception. Since transforming the business, Ashley has handled the day-to-day operations including business management, value-added product creation, and marketing. During the seven-week harvest season, the entire family steps in to lend a helping hand. Ashley’s mother-in-law contributes by weeding the fields by hand, while her husband assists with more labor-intensive field tasks. Their children, especially her youngest son, Alakai, enjoys picking and savoring the wild blues every chance they get. Her oldest daughter, Stella, plays an active role in their food truck, which sells a delicious wild blueberry crisp, a specialty recipe created by Ashley’s mother-in-law.
A Perfect Fit for Ashley’s Lifestyle
While the business can be hard work, Ashley’s wild blueberry venture ticks all the boxes for her dream lifestyle. The great outdoors, hard physical activity, and the chance to channel her creative and social sides—all come together harmoniously on the farm. With the flexibility of intense work periods followed by blissful downtime, Ashley has found the ideal balance.
What surprised Ashley the most about her new venture? The size of the industry! Wild blueberries are a unique crop, thriving in only a few places, which has created an exclusively tight-knit community of farmers who know and support each other.
“The Maine industry is relatively small (only a total of 485 growers), which allows you to get to know everybody in the industry. I’m from a small town, so it’s wonderful to have that backbone of support in our community,” Ashley explained. “Every farming community has its share of characters, and getting to know them has been one of my favorite parts, and has made Maine truly feel like a big small town.”
Harvest Yield & Value-Added Products
Fields Fields Blueberries owns 10 acres and leases an additional 15 acres close to their property. On average, they harvest around 10,000 pounds of wild blueberries each year. For the industry as a whole, annual harvest yields vary from year to year but can be as high as 100 million pounds.
Despite dealing with recent challenges like drought and frost, Ashley remains resilient and compensates for any yield losses by purchasing from other organic wild blueberry farmers. With a new field in the works, their goal is to eventually double their harvest yield to 20,000 pounds annually.
Within 24 hours of harvest, Ashley flash freezes 100% of her harvest; 10% of that frozen crop is sold to various local businesses and customers through the farm’s website, while the other 90% is utilized as an ingredient throughout the year to make Ashley’s assortment of value-added wild blueberry products.
“For value-added products, we do the wild blueberry crisp chips and powder, and then we also harvest the blueberry leaves. We have a whole wild blueberry leaf tea line, and we also make a tincture with the tea. That part of our business is growing really fast, so that’s exciting,” Ashley shared. “The tea stuff is really starting to take off. It benefits us because it just gives us another source of income, and we’re taking from the same field, so it’s the same amount of work.”
Their dedication to sustainability is evident as the Fields use every part of the blueberry plant to create their roster of products.
Future Farm Goals
Through her unwavering commitment to organic farming and value-added products, Ashley has turned her family’s farm into a thriving business. Her vision and five-year plan is to introduce the farm’s wild blueberry crisp to grocery stores as a frozen dessert so that consumers can bring a taste of the farm home.
Fields Fields Blueberries continues to foster connections with its community while looking towards future growth and success. Ashley dreams of passing the torch to the younger generation one day, but for now the farm waits patiently, ready to embrace the kids whenever the time is right.
Fields Fields Blueberries Celebrates Wild Blueberry Weekend
Fields Fields Blueberries is committed to engaging with its local community, and plans to open its doors to the public for Maine’s third annual Wild Blueberry Weekend. Last year, the farm had over 1,000 visitors and Ashley’s goal is to double that visitor rate in 2023. To do that, she’s added a pancake breakfast each day of the weekend that will go from 9 to 11 AM.
Wild Blueberry Weekend is set for the weekend of August 5 – 6, 2023, and will take place across the state at a variety of wild blueberry farms, breweries, restaurants, and more. In addition to the pancake breakfast, Fields Fields Blueberries has a wonderful weekend planned for visitors to the farm, including live music, farm and apiary tours, and 20+ female-owned craft vendors. Here’s what you’ll find at Fields Fields Blueberries for the third annual Wild Blueberry Weekend:
- Wild blueberries for purchase (fresh or frozen)
- Food trucks
- Value-added wild blueberry products
- Live music
- Hikes through the property
- Storytime for kids – Blueberries for Sal
To learn more about Fields Fields Blueberries and the Maine wild blueberry industry, make sure to pay them a visit on Wild Blueberry Weekend. If Dresden isn’t located in your neck of the woods, you can explore 15 other farms located throughout the state.