28 July, 2008

Local Food: Sussmann's Wild Blueberries, Granville MA

In late July, a small sign goes up on Route 57 in Granville MA, right at the turn for North Lane. It's handpainted and it says "BLUEBERRIES" and for a few short weeks in the middle of summer it will guide you to the best-kept secret in Western Massachusetts: Sussmann's Farm.

For more than 20 years, my family and I have taken an annual drive to Sussmann's to buy delicious wild low-bush blueberries. Gathered on the farm and on other land in the area, the blueberries are sorted and packed for purchase at the Sussmann Berry Barn on North Lane.

The Berry Barn - about half a mile down North Lane on the right - is marked only by a light blue flag and a sign over the door, but it's hard to miss. The weathered barn with the rusty tin roof is typical of so many other old New England outbuildings; still sound and sturdy but with a bit of a tilt that gives the impression it's still standing almost from force of habit. Drive past the front door and you'll find a small gravel parking area just on the far side of the barn, right by a small vegetable garden.

Inside, the Berry Barn is open and airy. It gets hot and humid even on the hill here, but the open doors and windows and shade in the barn make it a little more tolerable inside. Flat wooden boxes of freshly-picked unsorted berries are stacked near the back by a large blue-painted machine filled with belts and pullies that drive a big leather conveyor belt. The berries are dumped on that belt and as they travel down to a catching area, workers pick through them to pull out stems, leaves, and unripe fruit. The berries then go into plastic-lined corrugate cartons which hold 25 pound lots of fruit. These cartons are either shipped as-is to wholesalers, or portioned out according to the preferences of folks who walk in looking to buy berries.

The best thing about buying fruit from the source like this is the freshness. We bought a gallon of berries on this trip, and they had been picked that very morning. The second best thing is, of course, the price. Our gallon of berries cost $25.00, or a little over $3.30 a pound, which is a fraction of the price supermarkets are charging. The 20-pound box at $50.00 is an even better deal. Wild blueberries freeze beautifully, so that would be the way to go for longer-term storage.

The wild blueberry season is short. Sussmann's opened for business this year on July 21st, and they expect to be all done by the third week of August (maybe a little longer if conditions are good.) It's always a good idea to call before making the drive.

Contact information:

Sussmann's Farm
North Lane
Granville, MA 01034
(413) 357-8898

Opening dates, hours, and current prices are available on their website - click here (opens in new tab).


Anonymous said...

My husband has fond memories of Sussman's blueberries from growing up in Southwick and making donuts in a number of local donut places. I read him your post and he really appreciated hearing it.

Norm Schoen said...

Funny how all these small farms look the same. That building looks like the place I purchased heirloom turkeys from here in Oregon.