Our mission is to provide a deeper understanding of the natural history, science, and rich culture of the 10,000 year old, wild blueberry’s indigenous ecosystem. Our vision is a future where this bio-diverse ecosystem and rural farms build capacity and prosperity, fostering ecological resilience in an ever changing world.
The blueberry barrens are the product of glacial formation and erosion of the waxing and waning of ice sheets and their movements. This geology has created an unusual landscape that has been dubbed “barrens” but is in fact highly productive of a superfood – the wild low-bush blueberry – and a whole history of traditions surrounding its cultivation and uses
The first cultivators of wild blueberries were local indigenous people, going back at least 10,000 years. Early cultivation techniques, like burning fields every other year to reinvigorate the rhizomes, and choke weeds and discourage pests are still practiced by local farmers and commercial industries.
According the the NE Historical Society, few people outside New England knew about wild blueberries until after the civil war. When sardine canneries lost their markets in the south, they switched to canning blueberries for Union soldiers. After that, word spread about this delicious and nutritious fruit.
The University of Maine has been involved in blueberry research since 1898, but it was not until the 1940’s that they purchased a farm specifically for blueberry research. In 1946 they purchased a property on US Route 1 near Columbia Falls, now called “Blueberry Hill”-named via a contest to local school children.
One benefit of university research has been the growing awareness of the scientifically verified health benefits of wild blueberries. Of course, these benefits have been apparent to indigenous people and those supplying Union soldiers during the Civil War. But, only recently in the context of health food trends, have varied health benefits of wild blueberries come to light for the general public and for international markets.
Where would we be without our wild blueberry heroes? These are the farmers, families, and communities that keep wild low-bush blueberry farming alive. They bring with them a community history that has been growing for centuries. Are you a wild blueberry hero?
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