Farmer Turns Blue Lemons Into Lemonade

When he bought a small blueberry farm in SW Michigan in the summer of 2008, Joe Corrado was told his berries were an outmoded variety and would always end up machine-picked and frozen for the processed food industry.

In 2009, his first year of farming, with prices plummeting because of over-production in Michigan, he decided on a unique sales strategy – rent the bushes out, so customers could own them for the season.

What he didn’t know at the time was that the 50-year old, seven and eight foot high bush Jersey berries, an old and no longer popular variety, were going to be wildly popular with his customers because the berries were so sweet.

“I kept hearing ‘your berries are the sweetest’, ‘they are so sweet,’ stuff like that,” said Corrado. “Then I got an order for 80 pounds to be shipped to Mississippi. It was for some elderly ladies who insisted on jerseys.” As the harvest went on, he kept hearing from more and more customers that “these are the sweetest berries, ever.”

Pickers, marketers, growers, and even Ag Extension experts all agree that the newer blueberry varieties are prettier, easier to pick and better suited for local supermarkets, but that doesn’t mean much to buyers of “Joe’s Blues,” as Corrado’s branded product is called.

Joe Corrado plans to continue swimming against the tide. And customer reaction continues to favor it. “Even a frozen pack of Joe’s Blues tastes better than the fresh berries my supermarket is bringing in from South America,” says Jim Mruk, an enthusiastic customer from the Western Chicago suburbs. Joe’s not surprised. He’s heard that before.

Joe rents his bushes out for $35 a season and guarantees twelve pounds of yield. For those who can’t make it to the farm, the berries can be shipped. More information, including ordering can be found at the company’s website, www.joesblueberries.com.

Hours for the farm are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and Noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays during season. The farm is located at 61687 34th Avenue in Bangor, MI.

Southwest Michigan is the nation’s blueberry capitol and produces one-third of the country’s high bush crop.

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