Blueberries are a thriving global market over the last 10 years, about doubling in the U.S. alone in that time. Key drivers behind crop popularity are the multiple health-enhancing factors attributed to the berry.
They are very high in content of anti-oxidant phytonutrients (according to USDA research) which help quench activity of free-radicals in the body, a class of highly reactive biochemical molecules. Free-radicals have been implicated as contributing factors to development of cancer, cardiovascular problems and Alzheimer’s disease among other health issues.
Washington state has had a commercial crop for many years but it was largely limited to acreage on the west side of the Cascades. Over the last few years, the acreage in Eastern Washington has boomed from just a handful of acres to over 3,000 now.
Roy Farms is a significant part of this growth. We planted our first acreage in 2010 after a careful review of crop production and marketing avenues. By the summer of 2012 we will have increased our commitment to the crop by five-fold based upon our success to date.
While the crop has a lot of popularity, and expectation for growth remains strong, we do not take the risk of entry into the market lightly. Roy Farms commitment to itself and its customers is to be a high-quality and low-cost producer—sustainable operations for the farm and dependable supply to the market.
Our berries (all Northern Highbush types) are grown in raised beds which are covered with plastic weed mat. Not only does this eliminate the use of herbicides in the rooting zone of the plant but also much of the hand labor otherwise required for weeding.
All of our berry acreage is “ferti-gated”—drip irrigation provides exactly the nutrients required by the berry bush to the specific area of the root zone where it can be absorbed. With plenty of thought beforehand and some excellent technology, we are able to maintain peak plant health even though berry bushes are not perfectly adapted to Eastern Washington soil types.
We have taken the extra step of protecting our bushes from late spring freezes by installing wind machines to stand guard over the crop. They automatically start when temperatures threaten delicate blooms and pull down warmer upper air layers to prevent freeze-damage.
This is a delicate crop requiring significant up-front investment, we want every berry to be premium to satisfy our customers. All blueberry plots have been configured to allow gentle mechanical harvest of sound, ripe fruit with minimal damage.