Washington has moved up to sixth in the nation in blueberry production, with farming of the fruit gaining popularity on the eastern side of the state.
The Tri-City Herald reported that an estimated 3,180 acres in Eastern Washington are dedicated to blueberries. That’s up from 2,500 acres two years ago.
The crop traditionally has been grown in Western Washington, with Whatcom County leading the way.
Statewide, producers this year expect to harvest more than 90 million pounds of blueberries. Two years ago, statewide production was 28 million pounds.
“The reality is we’re talking about an industry that overall is going to triple in size in a short period of time,” said Alan Schreiber, director of the Washington Blueberry Commission. “I know of no perennial crop growing at this rate, and certainly none in the Northwest tripling in size.
“People have health concerns, so this was an opportunity to grow a crop that has been showing good returns,” said Gary Middleton of Eltopia. He planted organic blueberries in 2007 and will harvest his first crop this year.
Producers say the fruit’s health benefits are driving the popularity. Among the benefits are antioxidants.