A visit to a U.P. berry farm

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CHASSELL — With Blueberry Festival coming up this weekend, I decided to drive up to Copper Country to learn more about one of Michigan’s top exports, berries.

In 2005, John Gierke bought a berry farm in Chassell, Michigan.

They simply wanted to find a farm where they could raise some larger animals like Tina the Lama, but then, they stumbled upon this property with already planted berry bushes.
Now, berry picking season is just for a short period of time during the year.

Normally from the end of July into the end of October depending on when winter decides to start.

But berries are traditionally a lower Michigan crop, until one individual thought the U.P. could harvest some special berries.

John Gierke, Owner, Gierkes Blueberry Farm said, “The sort of the godfather of blueberry hoarder culture in Michigan was a professor at MSU named Stanley Johnston and he’s the one who developed those varieties that grow in lower Michigan and he had this idea that he could develop varieties here that would grow in a northern climate. So this farm here was contracted by him and the other farms in the Copper Country and in the southern U.P. to test out these varieties.”

From pies to wine, these berries can be used for almost anything your taste buds can handle.

“The previous owner told us that they would sell four to six thousand pounds typically a year and we saw that our first year and we thought that was amazing. The fields we thought were just blue. So we got pretty excited about that and I think the very next year we produced only two thousand pounds and then the next year only two thousand pounds. That’s when I put the irrigation in and then we got rain, a lot of rain after I put the irrigation in. So we’ve got the average closer between nine and ten thousand pounds,” said Gierke.

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