The Michigan blueberry harvest is about to go into full swing, and local growers are working long hours to ensure that the blueberries are picked, packed and distributed to retailers, restaurants and consumers locally as well as throughout the country.
South Haven Mayor Bob Burr helped kick off the local harvest by visiting the Fritz family of Brookside Farms, along with Archie Armino of Walmart and Bob Hawk, president and chief executive officer of MBG Marketing, a grower-owned cooperative and a founding partner of Naturipe Farms, which manages the sales, marketing and distribution of the co-op’s blueberries.
“This is a crucial time of year for our local family farmers,” Mayor Burr said. “Our local and regional economies rely on a successful harvest season and it is a source of Michigan pride when we start to see our blueberries ripen and prepared to be shipped throughout the country.”
Cousins Peter Fritz and Carly Fritz Parsley, third-generation blueberry growers, gave a tour of their home farm in Bloomingdale, which was started nearly 60 years ago by their grandfather George Fritz Sr., who started the farm with just five acres.
When asked about the status of this year’s crop, Peter shared that the unseasonably cold winter was thought to pose a significant negative effect on this year’s crop; however the plants have been able to rebound and the crop is looking strong for the year.
“Certain varieties fared better than others,” Hawk noted. “However, we are pleased with how the bushes have bounced back this spring and are looking forward to another great year.”
To assist in promoting the health and great taste of blueberries, MBG Marketing and Naturipe Farms are continuing their work with the Michigan Ag Council to sponsor the Pure Michigan program.
“The locally grown movement has made tremendous strides to highlight the importance of supporting our local agricultural sector and the positive impact it has on our economy,” said Hawk. “We are especially pleased to be working with local retail customers, including Walmart, who highlight the heritage, traditions and contributions made by the family farms in Michigan.”
Archie Armino, market manager for Walmart in the South Haven area, also joined in on the First Pick celebration. Walmart plans to double the sales of locally sourced produce in the United States and has partnered with MBG Marketing to feature 11 of its family farms with in-store signage throughout Michigan Walmarts this summer. “Walmart is committed to the farmers who grow our food and supports the in-season locally grown products such as these healthy, flavorful Michigan blueberries,” said Armino.
Michigan produces more than 100 million pounds of blueberries every year for fresh and frozen markets. MBG Marketing represents a large portion of the approximately 600 family farms in Michigan that grow blueberries.
Naturipe Farms LLC is a grower-owned producer and international marketer of premium berries. With production primarily from multi-generation family farms located in the prime berry-growing regions throughout North America and South America. The diverse grower base ensures year-round availability of “locally grown” and “in-season global” conventional and organic berries.