HOPE—Maine’s first Wild Blueberry Weekend is rolling out this weekend August 7 and 8 just in time for wild blueberry processing season with more than 15 farms and 40 businesses planning to participate over the state.
Amid hundreds of acres of rolling hills in Hope sits a new building that serves as a processing center, distillery space, and a tasting room for Brodis Blueberries, a business that has been in operation for more than 150 years.
Ron Howard is the son-in-law of Gwen Brodis, who, along with her late husband, Dick, built and cared for the blueberry farm. As the Farm Manager and a committee member of the Wild Blueberry Commission, he and the other two committee members came up with the concept of Wild Blueberry Weekend.
Other Midcoast Participating Farms & Businesses (click to see websites)
- Ridgeberry Farm, Appleton
- Blueberry Valley Farm, Union
- Bixby Chocolates
- Fresh Off The Farm
- Unity College: Sky Lodge
- Blue Barren Distillery
- Maine Tasting Center
- Rollies Bar & Grill
- Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery
- Sweetgrass Wine Farm & Distillery
- Winterport Winery
“We wanted to promote local, wild blueberry growers and the industry in general, and the idea was to replicate Maine Maple Sunday with blueberries,” said Howard. “We’re hoping to get people out on blueberry farms, learn about the industry, taste the products, and buy from the farmers and businesses.”
Prior to COVID-19, the farm operated primarily through retail sales. The process of harvesting the prized Maine berry is detailed in a story by PenBay Pilot’s Jenna Lookner in 2017. At the time, operations took place out of Gwen Brodis’s house.
Last summer, the family decided to build a new processing center at the top of the hill, where they do all of their winnowing of the blueberries, packing, and retail. “We’re switching over from selling 100 percent to commodity markets, such as Wyman’s Blueberries, and trying to introduce more direct sales,” said Howard.
Aligning with the agritourism trend, Brodis Blueberries started inviting the public to their farm with the addition of the new building. A number of picnic tables are spaced outside, offering panoramic views of mountains and blueberry fields.
For their part during Wild Blueberry Weekend, Brodis Blueberries aims to offer self-guided hikes, guest speakers from Wyman’s Blueberries—one of the leading growers, processors, and marketers of wild blueberries—as well as provide blueberry tastings.
With an aim toward educating the public about the blueberry industry, they will also have representatives from the cooperative extension that specialize in wild blueberry harvesting to talk about the industry and answer questions from the public. For the kids, there will be some games and at 10:30 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, a guided hike to the top of the property will end up with a reading from the beloved children’s book, Blueberries for Sal.
The building also serves as the temporary home for Blue Barren Distillery (see the accompanying story in sidebar). For the festival, they will be offering bottle sales and cocktails from 12 to 6 p.m.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com