Wild or lowbush blueberries are sought out for their high antioxidant and anthocyanin content. Wild blueberries are one of the best things you can eat for brain health, and they are considered a superfruit. While the wild or uncultivated berry is most commonly associated with the Downeast region in Maine, there is also substantial acreage of the wild plant in eastern New Hampshire. Historically, this was a main crop for many farmers around Lake Winnipesaukee and into the White Mountain region. Today when you drive up Route 16 in August, you are likely to see cars pulled off the side of the road where locals are harvesting wild blueberries for their freezer and morning pancakes.
Unfortunately, wild blueberry production in the state has declined due to global overproduction of the cultivated or highbush blueberry. Western states like Oregon and other countries including Canada have added significant acreage of the highbush plants, saturating the frozen berry market. Saturation has driven down the price of the locally cherished wild berry to a point so low that harvesting the fruit is not always profitable. Growers in New Hampshire and Maine have to shift their marketing strategy and reinvest in local outlets if they are to remain profitable.
Developing new market outlets, rebranding the wild berry as a superfruit and encouraging consumers to seek out the wild blueberry specifically are a few things that were discussed at the Wild Blueberry Conference held recently in Bangor, Maine with the University of Maine Extension. We have a similar meeting organized for wild blueberry producers in New Hampshire on March 17 from 9:00-Noon at Tumbledown Cafe (21 Meadow Street, Sanbornville, NH 03872). We will discuss strategies for marketing, where to find financial assistance and we will share current innovations with value-added products. We will also cover the impact of a warming climate on the wild blueberry plant and what strategies growers might need to adopt to maintain a productive crop. The event is free; register at the following link: https://bit.ly/2vNpZnZ