True blue beauties

Blueberry Haven’s bountiful harvest can’t be rushed, worth the wait

Grace Kirchner Leader Correspondent

Photo by Grace Kirchner The blueberries are big, blue and ripe, according to Moni Jarvais of Blueberry Haven, located on County Road XX, southeast of Clintonville.

Moni Jarvais has made a lot of decisions over the years with regard to her family-owned business, Blueberry Haven.

After doing research in the year 2000 as to what could be successfully grown on 15 acres that used to be a vegetable farm, and what wasn’t then widely available for sale, she decided to grow blueberries. She and her husband, Duane, also decided they wouldn’t use any pesticides on their five varieties of blueberries. And they decided, in 2001, to install an overhead irrigation system.

What she doesn’t get to decide, however, is when the blueberries are ripe and ready.

“Nature rules as to when the berries are ready for picking,” said Jarvais.

The berries are ready now — either pick-your-own or prepicked — at Blueberry Haven, located at W9967 County Road XX, southeast of Clintonville. Because of their five varieties, the picking season lasts six to eight weeks, Jarvais said, from mid-July through August, or until they run out.

“We don’t sell to grocery stores because we can’t guarantee when the berries will be available,” she said. “As I said, Mother Nature rules.”

The operation started to take root in 2002, when 18,000 of the 3-year-old blueberry plants from Michigan were planted by hand in rows. Migrant workers did much of the planting. It took a few years for the plants to get established, Jarvais said, and she first started selling blueberries out of the garage in 2005. In 2007, Blueberry Haven opened to the public. Today, she has eight employees that help pick and sell their blueberries.

It takes about 8 years for a blueberry plant to reach maturity, Jarvais said, but once it does, it will last anywhere from 30-50 years, she said. The bushes are now up to 8 feet tall, and picking is easy, she said, but they have to be vigilant against unwelcome guests who also love their sweet berries.

“The raccoon break down the plants. They are a real problem,” Jarvais said. “The birds take a bite out of berries.”

They also have to watch out for a fungus that might attack the plants, which requires a spray fungicide treatment. The weather is also a factor, Jarvais said. Luckily, the record snowfall in April did not damage the blueberry bushes because of the mild temperatures. A cold, wet spring can be a problem, Jarvais said.

Too much heat and humidity can cause the berries to over-ripen and rot. On the flip side, though, the plants need 1 to 1½ inches of rain per week and must be irrigated if the weather is too dry.

Maintaining a blueberry patch also requires constant mowing between the rows of bushes, ongoing pruning and continual weeding.

“We take soil samples each year to determine if fertilizer is needed. Blueberries like an acidic soil,” said Jarvais.

But all that work is worth it to produce quality blueberries, which are loaded with antioxidants and considered by nutritionists to be a “superfood.” The fresh berries will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks and not turn mushy like some other fruits.

To get to the farm, travel south of Clintonville on U.S. Highway 45 to County Road D. Turn east and watch for the signs.

Blueberry Haven is typically open for picking from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They are closed Sundays, Mondays and other select days to allow the berries to ripen. “We decided to stay open during the noon hour for people to stop out,” Jarvais said. Pickers are advised to call ahead for picking updates at 715-823-4091, wear boots and use mosquito repellent.

If berries are not available for picking, prepicked berries are sold at the farm as well as Meier’s Market in Chilton, Greenville’s Farmers Market (on Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m.) or the Little Chute Village Market (Thursdays from 2-6 p.m.)