October 23, 2021

Blueberry season is just around the corner

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Jeffrey Hall, owner of Hall’s Hill Blueberry Farm in Cortland, gently lifts a cluster of blueberries to examine their color. The blueberries are expected to be ripe just in time for Hall to reopen his farm on July 17 for blueberry season.

At first glance, you might not realize the 3-foot-tall shrubs are blueberry bushes. Right now, the blueberries aren’t very blue — rather shades of green camouflaged among their leaves — but give them a few more days and the field will be dotted with indigo.

Blueberry season begins next week, and farmers are preparing to welcome customers to get some fresh air while picking their own fruit.

“A lot of great people in this community,” said Jeffrey Hall, owner of Hall’s Hill Blueberry Farm in Cortlandville. “We’ve even got families coming from Binghamton, Syracuse and Ithaca to come and pick blueberries and picnic and have a nice day.”

Hall’s field maintains a family tradition dating back more than 50 years when his family first started planting blueberries in Parish in 1967.

“I’m looking forward to interacting with people again — some of them I’ve seen for the past 40 years, coming back every year,” Hall said. Unlike Hall, the Ryan family has only been in the blueberry business for a few years.

“It’s a lot of work we didn’t quite expect,” said Rick Ryan, co-owner of Underhill Farm in Dryden. “We took over this blueberry patch from Farmer’s Choice, so we’ve been operating for about three years and really getting into the groove of things.”

Rick Ryan and his wife, Theresa, have learned how to maintain their patch of 500 blueberry bushes, including how to prune during the dormant season to help with growth and keeping their fingers crossed for the perfect amount of rain.

“We’ve only been doing this for three years, but we’ve realized that even with our small patch there are people who have been picking here for dozens of years and they’re really excited to come back,” Ryan said.

Open hours

  • Hall’s Hill Blueberry Farm is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., July 17 through Aug. 15.
  • Underhill Farm is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, or by appointment, beginning July 10 through the end of August.

Last year, the U-Pick farm business received greater interest than usual, Hall said.

“People were sheltered from COVID. They wanted to get outside and they knew they could socially distance in the field, while still enjoying themselves and being with nature,” Hall said.

The farmers offered hand sanitizers and masks to maintain safety for customers and employees alike.

“I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the neighbors and guests,” Ryan said. “We see it as a way to connect with one another, as well as with nature and the farm. It’s not just about coming to pick blueberries.”

Lauren Roberts travels from Ithaca each year to visit Underhill Farm and visit with the Ryans.

“I’ve always loved fresh produce,” Roberts said. “Living in this area — it’s truly bountiful with farms and fresh produce. I love that living here means I can just drive over to a farm to pick fresh blueberries.”

Visiting the Ryans’ farm is a great outing for her kids, ages 6 and 9, Roberts said.

“If they pick it themselves, they’re more likely to eat it, right?” she laughed.

Since blueberry season typically only lasts until the end of August, Roberts plans to stock up on blueberries to store in the freezer, hoping they’ll last her until next summer.