NORTH SMITHFIELD – On a sweltering hot Saturday afternoon, customers flock to Goodwin Brothers Farm in North Smithfield for vegetables, raspberries, and blueberries.
Jimmy Rodgers, 73, braves the heat to pick his own blueberries. The North Providence man, who was confined at home since March because of the coronavirus lockdown, calls the opportunity to get out, pick blueberries and grab some corn “joyful.”
The virus situation has fueled business, says farmer Bob Goodwin, standing between rows of peach trees and blueberry bushes.
The farm is experiencing a “very large increase in the number of people coming to pick their own fruit,” said Bob’s son, Josh Goodwin. “People are able to enjoy themselves. That’s a good thing.”
Josh and Bob, descendants of generations of farmers, have two and a half acres of blueberries on their sprawling farm. The blueberry season lasts until at least mid-August, depending on the weather, they note, and this year the blueberry crop is abundant, and sales are brisk.
At pick-your-own fruit at Harmony Farms in North Scituate, owner Gil Barden says, “this season’s blueberry crop is phenomenal in size and abundance. The picking is fantastic right now.”
Barden also owns nearby Barden Family Orchard, which also offers blueberry picking.
And Americans are doing more picking and buying these days. Blueberries sales have leaped ten percent over the last decade, according to Roland Fumasi of RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness in Fresno, Ca., in an online report. Only raspberries and blackberries have grown more than blueberries in the past 10 years.
The US Highbush Blueberry Council points out that the fruit are sacred as a famine food to some Native Americans of the northeast. In 1620, the Wampanoag Indians taught the Pilgrims how to harvest and store blueberries, according to the council. Blueberries become a commercial crop in America in 1916.
Studies show blueberries effect the brain, cardiovascular system, insulin response, and more. Sometimes deemed a “superfood,” the fruit have high antioxidant content, protecting against free-radicals contributing to aging and cancer.
The color of the blueberry skin comes from the flavonoid anthocyanin –from the Greek “anthos” for flower and “kyanos” for blue. Research shows that within two hours of munching on blueberries humans feel positive, even joyful, according to Effects of Acute Blueberry Flavonoids on Mood in Children and Young Adults.
For those wondering where else to find fresh blueberries, local options are plentiful.
In Johnston, family-owned Dame Farm and Orchards’s motto is, “You can be sure it’s American grown when you pick your own.” Customers at Dame are picking blueberries and sunflowers, and are asked to bring their own snippers.
Phantom Farms in Cumberland, offers picked blueberries, as well as treats such as blueberry muffins.
Because of the virus, Allison Molis, an owner of family business Jaswell’s Farm in Smithfield, has launched an online store with curbside pick up for fresh picked blueberries, as well as seasonal favorite blueberry donuts. The farm also offers blueberry donut ice cream sandwiches and blueberry lemonade.