Harvesting 650,000 Pounds of Wild Blueberries by Hand
Around 1950, Elijah Hammond had just finished serving in World War II and came home to Maine. He bought land in Harrington and Lynch Hill Farms was born. His son, Bob Hammond took over the blueberry farm in the 1980’s and expanded the farm over the years, continuing with Maine Wild Blueberries but also adding cranberries, concord grapes, and shiitake mushrooms. Now, his son Courtney Hammond and daughter, Anna Emerson, are the third generation to run their family’s Wild Blueberry farm, with many members of the family pitching in throughout the year to help with harvest and selling. Check out our conversation with Courtney below.
Q: How long has your farm been in business?
A: For about 70 years. Today, the land my grandfather bought is now used to not only harvest our Wild Blueberry crops, but also tend to other crops like cranberries and shitake mushrooms. I run the farm with my sister, Anna, and my younger brother is the Senior Farm Manager for Wyman’s of Maine. It truly has been a family affair from 1950 to 2020.
Q: How many pounds of Wild Blueberries do you grow and harvest annually?
A: We harvest about 650,000 pounds of Wild Blueberries each year. The harvest is done only with traditional rakes. Our land is rocky and uneven so we can’t use mechanical harvesters, plus we believe the quality of the berries is better when harvested in this traditional way. After harvest, we work with processors to freeze about 85% of our crop so people can enjoy Wild Blueberries year-round, but the rest of it is either sold fresh on-site or elsewhere in Maine.
Q: How do you sell your fresh Wild Blueberries?
A: We have a retail shop on our farm where we sell directly to customers. Additionally, we sell part of our crop wholesale to Maine grocery stores – our reach is as far South as Cape Elizabeth, to West of Rangeley. I’m working on a plan to eventually sell and ship our fresh Wild Blueberries more broadly, but it’s going to take some iterations of working with friends around the country to ensure the quality stays top-notch during the shipping process. We don’t advertise – we’re completely word of mouth – so quality is our utmost priority.
Q: Do you sell any value-add products?
A: We sell Wild Blueberry jam, cranberry sauce, cranberry vinegar, and consignment products from local producers like maple syrup, wooden gifts, and jams or jellies.
Q: What makes the Wild Blueberry industry different than other Maine industries?
A: The biggest thing is that we can’t plant them – we are managing a plant that was already there and has existed for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. We can’t make more acres of Wild Blueberries. Also, we’re dealing with many different varieties of Wild Blueberries, them blossoming at different times during the Summer. This is what makes them so unique in taste – all of those flavors combined together are delicious and healthier than cultivated blueberries. For me, it’s a better tasting all around fruit.
Don’t miss out on a little piece of Maine magic – stop by Lynch Hill Farms to pick up some tangy, native Maine Wild Blueberries as soon as they’re available in August! Learn more about Lynch Hill Farms by visiting their website.