- Associated Press - Saturday, July 30, 2016

ROCHESTER, Ind. (AP) - Berry pickers visiting Siders Blueberry Farm lined the rows of bushes, letting the plump kernels of fruit drop into buckets hanging from their belts.

Karen Shidler, a diabetes education nurse who lives in Logansport, comes to the blueberry farm every year.

“Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods out there,” she said, going on to describe their antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and low calorie count.

While blueberries come with health benefits, Shidler admitted they’re also pretty tasty in a dessert those in her profession don’t often advocate.

“Well, I am a diabetes educator, but I do make a pretty good blueberry pie,” she said. “You can have a small slice.”

Shidler is one of the scores of pickers who have been visiting Siders Blueberry Farm over summers for the past three decades.

Maurice Siders, owner of the farm, said he grows 15 different kinds of blueberries across 10 to 12 acres. In November, he will have been in business for 30 years, he continued.

Visitors pick up their belts and buckets when they arrive and pay by the pound on their way out. Harvesting starts after Independence Day weekend and can last up to seven weeks depending on the season, Siders said, adding he hopes to make it to the middle of August this year.

Growing blueberries comes with its challenges.

“Weather is the big ‘un,” Siders said. “Then every critter in the world is after blueberries - birds, coon, deer, turkeys, they’re all after them.”

Including bugs, Siders continued. Female spotted wing drosophila deposit their eggs right into the berries, meaning Siders has to spray insecticides often to prevent crop loss.

When the farm closes its gates to visitors next month, there will still be plenty of berries on the bushes.

“There’s no way people can pick them all,” Siders said. “We don’t want them to go to waste if we can save them.”

The berries that don’t get hauled away by visitors get collected by a machine Siders drives through his crops at the end of every summer. It straddles the rows as he travels over them, shaking the berries off and into pans.

Siders said he transports his product to a blueberry growers association he belongs to in Michigan, which cleans, freezes and markets his berries.

Peggy Osborn and Deb Taylor, friends from Bluffton, said they’ve been to Siders Blueberry Farm a few times and enjoy the berries and experience it provides.

“My favorite thing about summer is the produce - fresh produce,” Taylor said among the blueberry bushes earlier this month.

Osborn’s bucket was filling up by the minute.

“These are just so easy to pick too because they just roll right off,” she said.

The ladies said they like to use the blueberries they pick to make pies, breakfast casseroles and coffee cakes.

Visiting the farm is a good way to continue the friendship they’ve maintained for the past 25 years, they added.

“It’s a good way to spend our time together,” Taylor said.


Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, https://bit.ly/2apdap4


Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com

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