Blueberry season has come and gone this year, but for two Harlem residents, the fruits of their labor won't be known until next summer.
Louis Newsome and his wife, Janice, are hoping to start their own you-pick blueberry business and planted 120 bushes this summer. The bushes will have to stand the test of the final hot days of summer and the frost and cold of winter before it is known if they will produce next year.
"It's been extremely dry," said Newsome. "Right now, the plants are only knee high, so next spring, we'll decide whether to take the blooms off and let them grow another year or let the bushes produce a crop. We'll just go from there."
Blueberry bushes are nothing new to Newsome, who already had a few bushes on his property before planting new bushes this spring.
"I've got about six or seven of my own," he said. "We take the blueberries off and put them in the freezer. We eat them and share them with friends and family, and there's always more than we can use."
Research continues to tout the benefits of eating blueberries. In 2003, a USDA Human Nutrition Research Center laboratory experiment found that rats fed blueberries showed less loss of memory and motor skills than their counterparts not fed blueberries. Blueberries, which are low in sodium and fat, are also high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
With the news that, aside from tasting good, blueberries are good for you, Newsome decided to venture into the blueberry patch business.
"Blueberries are really good for you and there's very little demand with pesticides," said Newsome, who hopes to have a patch of nearly 250 bushes. "And, it doesn't hurt that my wife and I like them."
Newsome added that since blueberries are small, they take a while to pick. By offering a you-pick service, he'll be able to give pickers a fresh product at a better price.
"For a lot of people, it's an enjoyable experience to get out for a few hours and get a fresh product at a lower price," he said.
Newsome said he has already planted three different varieties and hopes to add two more next year.
"We're trying to select some varieties that will extend our season out," he said.
Blueberry season typically lasts four to six weeks beginning in late June and running through late July.
A teacher in Jefferson County, Newsome said he hopes the blueberry business is a profitable "after retirement" venture. He and his wife will manage the business on their private property just outside of Harlem.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.