Growers in other parts of the state will celebrate the season with Blueberry Day at the Raleigh Farmers Market, Thursday, June 16.
“It’s a great way to bring awareness to the blueberry industry in North Carolina,” said Moore, a commercial grower whose blueberries, either fresh or frozen, ship all over the country.
Interest in blueberries, he said, remains strong, especially with the awareness of the fruit’s health benefits, and as members of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, state growers keep abreast of the latest studies, Moore said.
Though the festival takes place during harvesting, Moore said growers try to participate.
“Usually we’re in the middle of harvesting blueberries, so we don’t always get to go,” said Patricia Mote Johnson of J.E. Mote Blueberry Farm in Harrells, which has about 150 acres of blueberries.
The farm, she said, is a commercial blueberry operation, though it does sell fresh blueberries locally to people who stop by the farm.
“Overall it’s been a good season,” Johnson said.
North Carolina, which ranks sixth in the United States for blueberry production, will also hold Blueberry Day at the Raleigh Farmers Market Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Farmers Building.
Blueberry Day provides visitors with the chance to try fresh blueberries, find recipes and taste sample desserts at the State Farmers Market Restaurant, all for free, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Of course, farmers will have blueberries for sale.
Aside from special days featuring blueberry season, which runs from mid-May to mid-July in the state, the North Carolina Blueberry Festival, held in Historic Downtown Burgaw, begins Saturday. On Friday, a blueberry recipe contest, sponsored by StarNews Media, and a barbecue cook off take place.
The main events for the eighth annual festival will take place Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., featuring live music, the Tour de Blueberry (hosted by the Cape Fear Cyclists), the Blueberry 5K Run Walk, a beer and wine garden, a car show, an antiques show and sale, arts and crafts as well as prints from Pender County Native Ivey Hayes, food vendors, North Carolina barbecue, children’s activities, and many other attractions.
“The Festival celebrates the historic, economic, and cultural significance of blueberries in the southeastern region of our state,” according to the N.C. Blueberry Festival Association. “The first cultivated blueberry production in North Carolina began in the Pender County area in the 1930’s. Today, Pender County ranks second in blueberry production for the entire state.”
As a major blueberry producer, North Carolina’s blueberry industry brought in $51 million in 2009, and Pender, Columbus, Bladen, Duplin and Sampson counties rank as top blueberry producers in the state, according to the state agriculture department.