Geological Context

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 lowbush blueberry - and a whole history of traditions surrounding its cultivation and uses.

Indigenous Culture

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.

Canning and Civil War

The development of modern food preservation techniques, from Louis Pasteur's works to the invention of home and industrial canning played a key role in the development of the blueberry industry. Canned wild blueberries were shipped to Union troops during the Civil War to prevent scurvy and became a food staple largely because of their convenience, ease of storage, and health benefits.

UMaine & Agricultural Research

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.

Community Health and Nutrition

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.

Wild Blueberry Heroes

Where would we be without our wild blueberry heroes? These are the farmers, families, and communities that keep wild lowbush 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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