Double Life as a Maine Wild Blueberry Farmer
NatGeo Traveler Editor Comes Clean About Life in the Fields
Costas Christ, Editor-at-Large at National Geographic Traveler, admits that he may have surprised a few of his friends when he wrote in his Traveler column, “Tales From The Frontier”, that his life is split between his role as an international traveler and his work as a crop tender in a small Down East town. He said the revelation may have surprised a few of his farmer friends as well.
In his recent piece Blueberry Fields Forever, Christ proudly revealed his double life as a Maine wild blueberry farmer on a 40-acre farm in the heart of wild blueberry country. He writes that he bought the farm in the 80s from a farming family that could no longer sustain life working the land, and it’s been a part of his life ever since.
While he is quick to point out that wild blueberry farming is no “get rich quick scheme”, Christ said that for local farmers like him, it’s the summer visitors that allow them to make a living. Intrigued with this centerpiece of the local economy, they come to buy, learn, and take part in processing – a fact of life that those who live here year round already know.
From “Blueberry Fields Forever”:
There is a satisfying, natural cycle. In the fall, I cover the fields—Maine’s indigenous low-bush blueberry plants stand only 6 inches tall when fully grown—in a thick blanket of golden straw. When spring arrives, family and friends come together and we set the fields on fire—a technique originally taught to settlers by Native Americans, who have harvested these berries for centuries. After burning, the plants sprout thick foliage, but no fruit. The following summer, the same plants flower exuberantly, tripling, even quadrupling the yield.
Christ is an expert in sustainable tourism and founding member and former Chairman of the International Ecotourism Society, and he writes for a number of publications, including the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Each August and September he can be found tending his wild blueberry farm and managing a Maine farmers market cooperative which represents local family farms.
You can read more from Costas Christ and other contributors at National Geographic Traveler’s Taste of Travel where the world of food, drink and wanderlust come together in posts that highlight everything from the best BBQ joints to Bangkok food markets.
Did you know that wild blueberries have been a mainstay of the economy in Maine, Quebec and Eastern Canada for well over 100 years? Learn more about the heritage and farming traditions of wild blueberries.