Michigan blueberry harvest kicks off with ceremonial first pick
July 26, 2015

The Michigan blueberry harvest is once again about to launch into full swing, and local growers are working long hours to ensure that the blueberries are picked, packed and available to consumers, retailers, restaurants and food manufacturers throughout the country.Naturipe-MI-First-Pick-2015

Michigan continues to rank among the top states in highbush blueberry production with its growers expected to produce nearly 90 million pounds of blueberries in 2015 for fresh and frozen markets.

Bob Burr, mayor of South Haven, helped kick off the season for a ceremonial First Pick by visiting with local grower Chris Hodgman of Hodgman Blueberry Plantation, along with Larry Ensfield, president and chief executive officer of MBG Marketing, a grower-owned cooperative and a founding partner of Naturipe Farms, which manages the sales, marketing and distribution of the co-op’s blueberries.

“I am pleased to come to the MBG blueberry fields again to participate in the ceremonial First Pick, signifying that our Michigan blueberries are on the way to consumers throughout the country as well as to key export markets around the globe,” said Burr. “The family-owned blueberry farms in this part of Michigan have been a key part of our economic and community development for many generations.

“These berries will reach markets such as Hong Kong and will demonstrate the demand for our high-quality products at a time when export is also a key economic driver for all of us in Michigan,” Ensfield said in a press release.

Hodgman, a third-generation blueberry grower-member of MBG, gave Burr a tour of his family farm in Grand Junction, MI, and discussed this year’s crop with the mayor and Ensfield. He shared that while the past two winters have certainly put some stress on Michigan’s fruit crops, including his own, his family has been growing blueberries for 85-years and they always find a way to produce a good crop come July.

Ensfield knows all too well the challenges facing Michigan’s blueberry growers as they bring a crop to harvest. “It requires a tremendous amount of coordination between the growers, harvesting crews, Naturipe and MBG sales and support teams, packaging suppliers, packers and processors, and warehousing and transportation providers to keep our local industry thriving,” he said in the release. “Somehow we manage to get it all done — every year!”

MBG Marketing members represent a significant portion of the approximately 600 family blueberry farms in Michigan. In addition to the "Naturipe" brand fresh market blueberries, MBG’s Michigan-grown frozen blueberries will be used domestically and internationally.

Photo: Chris Hodgman of Hodgman Blueberry Plantation with Bob Burr, mayor of South Haven, MI, and Larry Ensfield, president and CEO of MBG Marketing.


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