October 14, 2019
Ann Wildes is a Georgia FarmHer who had a calling to spread the blueberry love. She and her husband Albert have been farmers for much of their married life. About 40 years ago they planted blueberry bushes at the request of Ann’s father and today they are still reaping the benefits of planting the fruit. Albert does much of the farm work, with Anne helping wherever needed. She also recently opened the Blueberry Barn, a store chock full of blueberry goodies, most of which are made from GA blueberries.
On our visit to Alma, which happens to be the blueberry capitol of Georgia, at the end of a long lane lined with blueberries we met Ann at her house. All decked out in blueberry gear, we knew we were at the right spot! Our day started with picking the ripe blackberries that sit just outside of her front door…while they aren’t blueberries, they are a nice addition to the blue fruit that is king in their county.
From there we jumped in her truck and headed to a different part of the farm, working our way to where Albert was running the harvesting machine with a crew of help. Before we got to that field, Ann made a few quick stops to check on and install some new moisture monitoring equipment. Because water is such a precious resource as are the berries, the Wildes use moisture monitors probes to carefully measure the soil moisture and help them determine when and how much they need to irrigate the berries.
While we were there in the field, I tried my first blueberry off the bush and I was HOOKED! I’ve never really loved blueberries and honestly haven’t eaten very many in the past but eating the fruit fresh off the bush, in the heart of blueberry country was a whole new experience the fruit was juicy, delicious and tasty!
We then continued down the road and around another corner found Albert running the harvesting machine. Ann explained that many years ago they were facing a shortage of help and decided to invest in the machine so they wouldn’t have to worry about leaving their valuable fruit out in the field. This was the first time I have seen a blueberry harvester and the process was very cool! I climbed up on the machine with Ann and watched in awe as she dug in, sorting the berries that were plucked off the bush and carried up through the machine on a conveyer belt. Any extra debris was thrown out along with any green or unsuitable berries and the rest went into crates, ready to head to the packing house.
At the end of a few rows, Ann and I took our cue and got down off the machine and back into her truck to head to the packing house. There I got to see the end of the line for the Georgia blues as they were sorted, packed and ready to be shipped!
Next up, we headed into town and right there in Alma, I got to experience Ann’s blueberry store! Ann told me that a few years ago she started realizing that even though Alma is the Georgia blueberry capital, you couldn’t buy a local blueberry in town! Ann felt called to change that and opened her store. At the store, customers can get local blueberries, picked fresh off the Wildes farm. The blueberries are just the start though….the rest of the store is filled to the brim with blueberry jellies and jams, jewelry and candles, juices and even blueberry ice cream! If there was ever anything made with blueberries, Ann has probably found it and is there to spread the blueberry love!
Ann and Albert were wonderful people and I am so happy our paths crossed. My day learning about blueberries was not only interesting, but also ended up tasty and since then, I have made it a priority to pick up a pint and throw them in with my breakfast each morning. From her care about her family and the farm to spreading her love of the beautiful blue fruit, Ann’s excitement was infectious! So, next time you find yourself crossing through Georgia, be sure to stop off and say hi and enjoy a piece of the local culture!
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