The blueberries grown on Cascadian Farm were one of the most magical elements of my visit there. Part of the charm of the blueberries is their delicious taste and the number of varieties available on the Farm (Spartan, Toro, Bluecrop, Jersey and Patriot). The other piece is how the blueberries, and most of the fruit at the Farm is pollinated.
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Very basically, blueberries need bees need to pollinate them. The bees move from blueberry flower to blueberry flower, and are essential to pollinating not only the blueberries, but also the strawberries and raspberries on the Farm. Pollination is not a new concept by any means, but Farmer Jim Meyer doesn’t just rely on his native pollinators, he brings in an extra supply.
Jim’s story follows:
“Every year, I rent 12-16 hives of bees and have them delivered to the Farm when the blueberries start to bloom. We usually have them sitting here for a month and a half or so until the raspberries are done blooming—they are the late ones. We also have native Mason Bees here to help pollinate, but it’s pretty cheap insurance to rent more bees to assist in the process.
The bees get delivered in big box/hive structures. They take a forklift and unload the hives from a truck and set them at the edge of the field. A few weeks later, they come back and set another box on top of the hive, because the bees need more room, as they are making honey as well as doing their pollinating chores. When I am done with the bees, I call the bee’s owner up and say, “Yup, we’re done,” and he picks the bees up and puts them back on his truck and takes them to another farmer. They are constantly moving the bees around and sometimes take them up to the mountains to get the honey from the fireweed or clover up there.”
After 2 days on the farm, and handfuls of blueberries consumed, I am more aware of and thankful for the chores bees do than probably ever before. The idea of renting bees is so ingenious and so charming, that it only made the blueberries more delicious, as silly as that may sound. Currently (early September), Bluecrops and Jersey’s are still being harvested at the Farm, and the Patriot patch has been opened up to U-Pick. These amazing berries are primarily sold at the Cascadian Farm Roadside Stand and Co-Ops and natural food stores in and around Washington State.