Just recently, we had the pleasure of spending the day with Dennis and Roseann, owners of Bleuet Hill Farm in Deposit, NY. The minute we arrived we knew we’d be in for a real treat! There were blueberry bushes everywhere – literally. Wanting to know more, we asked Dennis a few questions…
When did Bleuet Hill Farm come to be?
The property that is now Bleuet Hill Farm was purchased in 2006 for no reason in particular, we simply loved the views and the close proximity to our weekend home. We purchased a tractor and brush hog in order to keep the field mowed just as it had been for many decades. Someone suggested we stop this practice of mowing down the field so that we can observe what happens on the property over the next four seasons. This advice proved to be very wise, as a year later we discovered the dominant plant species on the property was blueberries.
That’s incredible! How many acres do you have?
We have 33 acres, 17 of them are fields of blueberries – the remainder is a pine/maple tree forest.
It’s crazy, all you see is blueberry bush, after blueberry bush. If you had to guess, how many pounds of berries do you think there are sitting in these 17 acres?
I believe we average two good pounds per bush and I’m going to guess we have two thousand bushes – so I’m going to say four thousand pounds.
Tell us about your previous life. What did you and Roseann do before the farm?
Roseann had various jobs over the years with the most rewarding being to raise our son. I worked in the securities industry for 32 years.
And now your blueberry farmers – love it! So, tell us about your growing practices and some of the challenges you face.
Our blueberries are truly wild and they want to be where they are. The soil is at an optimal acidity level, the rain is just the right amount and the field faces south – all we do is cut the paths. The current challenge is that this is a two person operation. Roseann and I wear many hats as most farmers do. In an effort to manage this, we want to remain a perennial farm using only the resources present on our property.
Seriously, we don’t know how you do it. The berries are so small – which makes them the best blueberries someone will ever taste – hands down. But the labor involved is a lot. So, what’s the most rewarding aspect of owning a u-pick?
It is our customers. Whether they come to the farm to pick or the weekly orders we deliver. We get many accolades on our berries!
No doubt! You know we use your berries to make our blueberry muffins. Thankfully, you’re able to provide us with enough that we can freeze them for year-round use. I have to tell you, we tried making the same muffins with bigger berries we had picked on another farm and they are no way near the same. Bleuet Hill blueberries are really just special and our customers literally freak out over them. I have to ask, what’s your favorite way to eat the berries?
Good question. We eat them as we are picking, use them as dessert toppings, make a blueberry bbq sauce and our favorite – venison with a blueberry chocolate sauce.
YUM! Your blueberry bbq sauce was delicious! As was everything Roseann prepared for lunch – thanks again to you both.
Let’s talk about weather… have you seen any changes affecting the bushes due to weather?
We pay close attention to the field especially during May & June. The blossoms are in bloom and the bumble bees come from who knows where to do the pollinating. We usually look to start picking shortly after the 4th of July. This is our fourth season – last years’ harvest was shortened by two weeks, the previous year it was past the usual six-week stretch.
What about the future? Do you have any expansion plans your working on?
Down the road, we plan to tap our maple trees, add bee hives and cultivate shiitake mushrooms using the maple tree logs gathered while thinning our overgrown forest. Imagine the honey from the blueberry blossoms and our own maple syrup over blueberry pancakes!
Now we’re talking! I’m sold and look forward to being one of your first taste-testers 😉 I think your plan makes perfect sense – it would be full utilization of your land and you know we could always use more bees a buzin’.
What’s the deal with homegrown blueberries?
Successful blueberry cultivation requires close attention to soil ph (it should be in acidic range). We haven’t tested our soil, but it’s clear to us the PH is just right. It also helps that we have a full southern exposure on a gently slopped hill that seems to get just the right amount of rain. Honestly, we know we’re blessed that these attributes are naturally present at Bleuet Hill Farm. Over the years, we have tried transplanting some of our bushes in other locations in NY and NJ, but have never had success.
Got it. So, we’ll just keep pickin’ at your place 😉 Tell our readers, what should they bring, how should they dress, can they bring their dog? You know, we showed up in tank tops, shorts and flip flops – probably not the best idea since we were in full sun all day.
Yeah, it’s best to wear light clothing, long sleeves, pants and a hat. The field has a southern exposure with the sun shining all day. We supply pails for picking and will happily package our customers berries. Well behaved dogs with responsible owners are welcome and we encourage picnickers. And coolers with ice are highly recommended – for your travel home.
Well, thanks Dennis for a great day of picking and chatting. Folks, if you’re in or around the Deposit, NY area, we highly recommend you fit in a day of picking. There’s plenty of berries and the taste is incomparable to any other berries you’ve probably had. Bleuet Hill Farm is open seven days a week, 10am-5pm, weather permitting. Go forth and pick!
PS. That’s Jen and JP hard at work – we picked 17lbs!