Meet Abby Sennett, Third Generation Wild Blueberry Farmer
Stewarding, harvesting, and processing wild blueberries is part of Maine’s heritage and state culture – especially for the families that have been doing it for generations. Here in Maine you’ll find that many wild blueberry farms are owned and operated by the same family, passed down from generation to generation to ensure this unique tradition of protecting these wild blue gems is alive for years to come.
Meet Abby, Third Generation Wild Blueberry Farmer
Since the day she picked up her first wild blueberry rake, Abby Sennett knew that one day, she would have the honor and responsibility of owning and operating her family’s wild blueberry farm. Located in Albion (Downeast Maine), Sennett’s Wild Blueberries has been a family-run operation for over 50 years. Currently owned by her parents, Lincoln and Karen Sennett, Abby and her husband will soon inherit the business. What makes this inheritance even more special is that they met as teenagers while raking in the wild blueberry fields. Abby is currently working through the ownership succession process with her parents, and once all is said and done, Abby will become the third generation of Sennetts to own and care for the wild blueberry fields.
Looking Back at Sennett Harvesting Practices
Even though 50-or-so years have passed since Abby’s great-grandfather originally started the business, not much has changed in terms of how these tiny berries are harvested.
“It has been pretty much the same format for harvesting since then,” Abby explained.
She went on to share that Sennett’s Wild Blueberries cares for 158 acres of wild blueberry fields and harvests around 300,000 pounds of fresh wild blueberries each year. Wild blueberries are grown on a two-year cropping cycle and each year the Sennetts harvest half of their fields while the other half is pruned to help the plants regrow and improve yield year-over-year. Of the 79 acres that are harvested every other year, 60% are handraked. Handraking is a traditional method of harvesting Maine’s iconic fruit and tends to produce a higher yield of fruit in pristine condition.
If you want to enjoy some Sennett’s Wild Blueberries this summer, they sell frozen and fresh wild blueberry packs out of their processing facility in Albion, as well as various grocery stores and farm stands throughout New England.
Diversifying the Sennett’s Wild Blueberries Farm Business Model
Maine’s wild blueberry industry is very similar to a lot of other agricultural businesses in the state – full of hardworking people who are incredibly dedicated to their craft. But what makes the Sennett’s Wild Blueberries business model diverse? Not only do they steward and harvest wild blueberries, but they also produce Swan’s Honey.
“We are able to carry it through from the beginning by pollinating the wild blueberry plants with our bees, all the way through to the end product of harvesting in mid-to-late summer. We have been able to vertically integrate our bees into wild blueberries, so much so that we now have the largest apiary in the state of Maine. We do the pollination for many wild blueberry growers across the state. My dad originally got into it because he needed better pollination for the wild blueberries, and then it just became a hobby that got really out of hand – but it definitely paid off!”
What’s Next for Abby?
She would like to expand into more value-added wild blueberry products, as well as sell more fresh pack wild blueberries – but as for everything else, it will stay the same as it has, at least while she owns the farm.
“I’d like to have a family and raise my kids like my parents raised us. They got us involved on the farm at an early age so we really learned what makes wild blueberries so special – I’d like to do the same for my family so they grow a love for this industry too.”
To learn more about the Sennett family, their wild blueberry farm, and their apiary, you can visit their Facebook page.