Despite Popularity Of 'Superfoods' Maine's Wild Blueberry Industry In Decline

Sep 4, 2018
Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

DEBLOIS, Maine - The Maine wild blueberry industry is locked in a downward skid in an era when "superfoods'' dominate the conversation about how to eat.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

A trade group says Maine’s wild blueberry crop fell sharply this summer to below 100 million pounds for the first time in four years.

Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine Executive Director Nancy McBrady says preliminary industry figures show the crop coming in at about 65 million pounds. Among factors for the decline were bad growing conditions.

“We had a wet, cool spring, not a heck of a good condition for pollination. And we had a really dry August, which caused the plants to be less productive,” she says.

Patty Treworgy inspects some of her high bush blueberries at Treworgy Family Orchards
A. J. Higgins/Maine Public

Maine wild blueberry growers are trying to salvage what they can from this year’s harvest, which experts predict will likely be smaller in just about every way: Smaller berries, smaller total crop harvest and smaller prices than a few years ago. Some wild blueberry growers in Washington County actually decided it was more cost effective not to harvest their blueberries and have mowed their fields in hopes of better conditions next year.

At Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant, co-owner Patty Treworgy examines one of her high bush blueberry plants.

Lee Coursey / via Wikimedia Commons

Maine wild blueberries once again decreased in value in 2016. New numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have the price at a 10-year low - 27 cents a pound.

But the harvest is only about a month away, and Maine Blueberry Commission Executive Director Nancy McBrady says growers have taken steps this year to reduce yields, and, hopefully, increase prices.

Fear of Losing Blueberry Growers as Prices Drop, Crop Soars

Jun 12, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine - Members of Maine's blueberry industry fear losing growers due to a depression in prices that has made growing the beloved crop lately a less reliable way to make a living.
Wild blueberries are a Maine tradition on par with lobsters and lighthouses. But prices to farmers have plunged from nearly a dollar a pound (454 grams) in 2011 to around 25 cents per pound (454 grams) now.

ORONO, Maine - Maine wild blueberries are being served up in more schools.
The Wild Blueberry School Foodservice Program says federal data show that more frozen Maine blueberries were sold to schools in April than in all of 2016. In the coming school year, Maine wild blueberries will be served in public school systems in 19 states.
Contributing to the boost is a marketing effort targeting state food service directors that's partially funded through a $50,000 grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Jennifer Mitchell / Maine Public

Finding a pack of blueberries these days is as easy as pie — they’re plentiful in both the fresh and frozen sections of the supermarket. But while the supply is high, the market price has taken a dive, and that has growers feeling blue.

Wikimedia Commons

As the growing season approaches, industry experts say Maine’s wild blueberry producers will likely have to slash production to keep the industry afloat. There’s been too much of a good thing, and prices are suffering.

By Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine - Maine's wild blueberry crop is headed for another big year despite dry weather that has caused some nervousness in the state' blueberry barrens.

Maine is by far the biggest wild blueberry producer in the country, and the industry is coming off back-to-back bumper crops of over 100 million pounds.

The Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine says this year's total will likely be closer to 90 million. That's still much more than the crop averaged a decade ago.

By Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine - In the face of industry pressure, the federal government is spending up to $4.4 million to complete a plan to help Maine's blueberry industry by buying surplus crop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in April it would buy up to $13 million in wild blueberries to help with falling prices and over-supply but the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine says the USDA has spent only $8.6 million so far.

By Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine - The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy up to 30 million pounds of wild blueberries to help with flagging prices and over-supply.
Members of Maine's congressional delegation told The Associated Press on Thursday that the agency will pay up to $13 million for the blueberries.
The purchase comes after the delegation sent a letter to the agency in which they said prices of frozen wild blueberries have fallen by as much as half in the last five years.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ U.S. Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine are urging the federal government to buy 18 million pounds of frozen Maine blueberries for use in school lunch and food assistance programs.


Aug 21, 2013

  All things blueberries - from their nutritional value to farming them.

Host Jennifer Rooks was joined by 

Susan Davis MS, RD, Nutrition Advisor, Wild Blueberry Association of North America 

David Bell, Executive Director, Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine 

Greg Bridges, a wild blueberry farmer

  A discussion of the great tastes and flavors of the area. It's more than lobster shacks and blueberry pies.

Host Keith Shortall was joined by :

Jean Kerr, Editor-in-Chief, Northeast Flavor magazine

Cathy Nash Holley, Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief, Flavor & The Menu magazine, Flavor Trends Website

and Stephanie Brown, Chef/Owner, Seagrass Bistro in Yarmouth