Born out of sibling rivalry, Keith Ashline from Littleport in Clayton County decided in 2012 to grow his own blueberries, creating one of the very few pick-your-own businesses in Iowa that is exclusively blueberries, Blueberry Hill. After learning of his brother’s success in Wisconsin growing grapes, Ashline decided to grow his own fruit, and learned his land was great for cultivating blueberries. From 400 bushes to over 700, Ashline has learned through trial and error how to successful run his half-acre blueberry farm and grow berry bushes that yield about five pounds of fruit per bush!
I heard about the local farm during a visit to the farmer’s market, when a vendor told me they were chemical free, and they provided containers to customers. At first I was a bit concerned about potential chemical drift; though I was reassured that the neighboring growers were also chemical free. To me, it seemed like a wonderful place to go! I quickly called them to see when their next picking date was, and set the date to pick my own blueberries.
When I got to the farm, I was amazed to see all the rows of blueberries with fruit morsels just begging to be picked. I got my container from Keith, and he showed me a bush that was perfect for picking. With a gentle snap off the bush, I picked the berries until I had enough of the antioxidant rich fruits to have to make delicious blueberry pastries and jams. I could smell the delicate, full fragrance of the berries, and I was excited to get home and make blueberry treats. I paid for my batch of blueberries and made my way back home, popping a few of the juicy berries into my mouth for a delightful, healthy snack.
It was such a treat to be able to pick my own blueberries from a local producer, and not have to worry about potential chemicals. In just five years Keith had gone from not knowing how to grow blueberries to successfully operating and maintaining a blueberry-exclusive business that was home to over 700 bushes. Perfect in a delicious homemade pie or just as a healthy antioxidant snack, Blueberry Hill blueberries is almost ready for customers to come and start picking!
Written by Jayna Felder | Photo Credit to Pam Reinig