Why are blueberries so expensive?

why are blueberries so expensiveI absolutely love blueberries, don’t you? But I rarely buy them in stores because they are so pricey. And indeed, why are blueberries so expensive?

My mother-in-law owns a small ranch. She keeps chickens, geese, horse, and sheep. She also grows vegetables and some berries, including blueberries. A couple weeks ago, I got the phone call we have been waiting for – blueberries are in, come pick your own. My mother-in-law doesn’t exactly live around the corner, it’s more like a 2 hour trip one way, but it is so worth it! Not only do we visit with family, but we also get to feed and interact with farm animals, including lambs and horses.  And we usually leave with a big bag full of fresh farm eggs, vegetables, and berries – all organic!

When we got to the farm last Sunday, we went straight to the blueberry bushes. The three bushes are about 5 years old, but they have grown huge and have been producing large harvests of berries for a couple years. This year we have had a lot of rain, and, even though it’s only the beginning of the blueberry season, the berries are already large, sweet, and very juicy.

organic blueberries

Now let me share my theory behind why blueberries are so expensive. My mother-in-law says that growing blueberries does not require much effort on her part. She lets the rain water the bushes, she doesn’t use pesticides, and the only fertilizer she applies is hardwood ashes – she spreads a small amount of ashes around the bushes in the fall. However, it does take a lot of time to pick the blueberries. It took me over an hour to pick a gallon bucket full of berries in 100 degree heat. I pick blueberries a few times a year, so I am not very skilled at blueberry-picking. I am sure there are ways to increase your blueberry picking speed, but from what I am getting out of the video below, some of the commercially grown blueberries are also picked by hand, not machines.

Since blueberries have a very short shelf life (about two weeks), there are probably some additional costs associated with quick delivery system from farms to stores and a certain percentage of waste that has to be configured into the price. If you consider the cost of growing, picking and packaging blueberries, then add in the transportation costs, and the store mark-up (often 100% of the cost), $4-$5 a pint blueberries may sound like a bargain. In order to bypass all the additional costs, find a Pick Your Own blueberry farm near you and pick your own berries for as low as $1.50 a pint (be sure to check out the Pick Your Own website – it has a very extensive list of farms by State and County).

In the past, blueberries were on the dirty dozen list (produce with highest pesticide residue). This year, they are no longer on the list, but it still may be a good idea to buy blueberries organic, if you can afford it. If you see DiMeo name on the blueberry packages, buy with confidence – they don’t use pesticides or chemicals on their berries. To keep their production costs down, DiMeo uses blueberry picking machines towards the end of the season, when only few new berries are coming in. That way the cost of picking 12 pints of blueberries goes down to $0.26 vs $4 for hand-picked blueberries. Here’s the picking machine in action.

I think growing your own blueberries would be a fun project to get your kiddos involved in. They can help you with research and planting, and then, of course, with blueberry picking, once the bushes start producing. Even the pickiest eaters are likely to try garden produce if you involve them in gardening.

As for me, I am very inspired to start growing blueberry bushes. It seems to be so worth it!  I found some good tips on growing great blueberries. Since soil PH levels are so important, I will start preparing the soil in the near future and will then test it for PH levels ( I found a soil tester on Amazon for around $6). I would like to get two-three heirloom bushes in the fall. Let me know if you have any suggestions on where I can get them.

 

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