Wild Blueberries are a Family Affair at Ridgeberry Farm, Midcoast Maine
Tim Davis didn’t choose the wild blueberry life, the wild blueberry life chose Tim Davis. After marrying his wife, Jess, heir to Ridgeberry Farm in Midcoast Maine, he joined a multi-generational family wild blueberry business and learned the ways of “blueberrying” firsthand. Today, Tim is a busy guy – he is the seasonal Head Harvest Manager for Ridgeberry, the full-time Knox County Sheriff, and a father to the next generation of Ridgeberry Farm farmers. We sat down to chat about his work in the wild blueberry industry, and it was clear that Tim is not only proud of what his family does, but also that he’s part of this special community that stewards a truly wild plant.
“When most people think about blueberries, they think about those found in the foothills of North Carolina or those exported from Chile,” Tim explained, “Those berries are very different from wild blueberries from Maine. And that’s why one of my goals is to educate folks on the difference so they understand how special our little wild berry is. The Maine wild blueberry is so unique, and it can’t be grown anywhere else. Our harsh Maine climate gives wild blueberries their incredible health benefits. And don’t get me started on taste because wild blueberries have a flavor profile that outshines all those ordinary blueberries. This is our berry, our product, and we are very proud of that.”
To really understand what makes the work Tim’s family does so special, we dug further into the history of his family farm, the work they do today, and what’s on the horizon for Ridgeberry Farm.
How Ridgeberry Farm Came to Be
In the early 1980’s, Tim’s in-laws, John and Alison Boyington, bought their first piece of wild blueberry land, and over the years, fell in love with the captivating Maine landscape enough to eventually build a house on the property. In the early 2000’s, they started commercially harvesting wild blueberries.
The Boyingtons began harvesting the traditional way: handraking every inch of the multi-acre field. During the first 10 years of operation, they slowly modernized their harvesting practices and have evolved into a sustainable family business. Today, Ridgeberry Farm has been blueberrying for over 40 years, and this strictly family-run operation is the pride and joy of the Davis/Boyington family.
A Look Inside Wild Blueberry Harvest Season
During the offseason, Jess works as a teacher and Tim as a police officer, utilizing all of their vacation time during the late summer months. Why? Because it’s all hands on deck in early August as Ridgeberry Farm works to harvest between 250,000-600,000 pounds of wild blueberries annually. Tim hopes they’ll be able to harvest between 300,000-400,000 pounds in 2022, with decent weather and increasing rainfall as a positive indicator. The reality for Maine wild blueberry growers is that their annual crop is dependent on the kindness of mother nature.
For many years, Ridgeberry Farm has sold the majority of its harvest to Wyman’s of Maine, as well as several local Maine wineries. The farm has its own fresh and frozen processing units onsite, with 10-20% of the annual yield sold fresh during harvest season. However, as demand grows for wild blueberries, Tim’s hope is that they’ll be able to expand their frozen wild blueberry processing capabilities onsite to extend their selling season beyond harvest season. They currently freeze a small portion of their yield for sales throughout the year.
Sharing What Makes the Wild Blueberry Industry Unique
“When you talk to somebody, even people from Maine, they automatically connect our state to the lobster, potato and tree farming industries. Many people don’t realize that Maine is the largest U.S. producer of wild blueberries. While demand and understanding of this is slowly changing, we have a lot of work to do to continue differentiating wild blueberries from cultivated blueberries. We are the better blueberry and Maine deserves a spot on the map,” Tim concludes.
Wild Blueberry Weekend
For the second year running, Ridgeberry Farm will be participating in Wild Blueberry Weekend, which is scheduled to take place August 6-7,2022. The farm will be offering a variety of family-friendly activities, including:
- Wild blueberry sampling and u-pick
- Live music
- Food truck vendors
- History lessons on old-school harvesting machinery
- Farm tours via tractor
To learn more about Ridgeberry Farm and the Maine wild blueberry industry, make sure to pay them a visit on Wild Blueberry Weekend.