HUDSONVILLE (WZZM) - You might not get your usual fill of Michigan apples and cherries this year due to poor weather, but if you still want local blueberries, you better act fast. The crop is two and a half weeks early in West Michigan.
Local U-Pick farms have been packed with customers, many finding out via Facebook or at farmers markets of the early start.
Blueberries got a head start in March due to the unusually warm weather. But you not only have less time to pick, there's fewer berries to choose from.
Michgian Blueberry Growers Association Director of Research Dave Trinka says frost, and now this hot, dry weather, have brought production down from the usual annual statewide average of 100 million pounds, to fewer than 80 million pounds of berries so far. Trinka says production could fall even further.
Merrill Post, owner of Post Farms in Hudsonville, has spent his entire life farming, with twenty-five of those years planting blueberries. Never once has he had to open U-Pick in June. The early start is messing up an already rough season.
"We lost two and a half weeks of field time. I still haven't got my pumpkin crop in," he said.
Post is so busy selling berries, his family doesn't have time to plant other July crops, including sweet corn. But, at least he has a full bumper of blueberries to sell. However, that has come at a cost; he's spending a lot of money on irrigation.
"I only had to frost protect my blueberries once in 20 years before this year. We had to frost protect our blueberries six times in April," he said.
Frost protection and lack of rain have forced Post Farms to use twice as much water as a normal year. They're running their irrigation system on the blueberries every five to seven days for up to eight hours at a time.
Despite irrigation, some Michigan farmers will still be feeling the blues. More than 20 percent of the state's annual crop is destroyed. Trinka says that's due in part to frost, but the heat and lack of precipitation have compounded the problem.
So, what has it done to taste? Not much if you take it from Kathie Read of Belmont. She was picking blueberries with her daughter, daughter-in-law, and grandson Tuesday morning.
"They're sweet, a little smaller," she said.
You could consider her somewhat of an expert.
"I used to go with my mom, so probably 40 years, I've been picking blueberries a long time."
Now her grandson is kind of helping out.
"We make blueberry muffins," she said.
Margie Brendan Hoving was out picking with her son and daughter.
"It's really that kid, he really gets us out here because he loves them so much," she said.
The faster they pick, the faster Post can get to his pumpkin crop.
Post says they should have blueberries for another two weeks.