SOUTH HAVEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some West Michigan farmers are singing the blueberry blues. This year’s blueberry yield was down dramatically.
Mark Longstroth, a fruit educator with Michigan State University, has been advising the Michigan blueberry industry for 25 years. This year, he said, growers picked about 66 million pounds of blueberries, down from the 100 million pound average.
“In fact, I know there are people who didn’t even harvest some fields,” Longstroth said. “They looked at them and said, ‘It’s not worth the money that it would cost to pick those.’”
Blueberry farmers usually worry about cold winters or spring frosts. This year, the problem was that it was too warm.
“We learned that they really don’t like hot weather,” Longstroth said of the berries.
“We’ve seen pollination periods that were too cold before, but we haven’t seen pollination periods that were too hot,” he continued. “Remember in May we had a really hot stretch in the middle of May, and then right around Memorial Day we had four or five days in the 90s, which are really unusual for here in Michigan.”
Grower Mike DeGrandchamp said his farm near South Haven produced about half its normal crop, explaining the blueberries were either smaller than normal or didn’t grow at all. It was the worst blueberry year in the farm’s 60-year history.
“If you’re only doing half your normal crop, your income is half, you know,” he explained. “So, it’s tough on a lot of growers.”
You can usually find his blueberries on the shelves under a different brand name at your local Meijer, Costco, Walmart or Sam’s Club.
“It’s like a roller coaster,” DeGrandchamp said. “Some years you’re going to have good years and some you just plan for; you know you’re going to have a bad year at some point. Hopefully, there’s a lot more good than bad.”
You shouldn’t expect to pay more for blueberries. Longstroth explained that the fruit has become a global industry. West Michigan once accounted for one third of the blueberries produced in the U.S.; now it’s a fifth.