Superfresh Growers sees good things ahead for blueberry segment
Superfresh Growers has 700 acres of blueberries grown in the Umpqua River Valley in southern Oregon, where the mild, dry climate is ideal for producing delicious, large, high-quality blueberries over a long season.
“We have a great little microclimate with winters and summers that are milder than our northern neighbors’ in the Willamette Valley,” said Catherine Gipe-Stewart, communications manager for the Yakima, WA-based company. “We typically start 7-10 days earlier than the Willamette Valley, depending on the year.”
Blueberries complement the company’s summer fruit program as Superfresh Growers can easily consolidate blueberries onto its trucks with Northwest cherries, apricots, apples and pears.
“Our family-owned-and-operated blueberry program is a multi-generational legacy spanning nearly 50 years,” Gipe-Stewart said. “Superfresh Growers is entering our third year marketing blueberries and kiwi berries from this one farm in the Umpqua River Valley. As a fifth-generation family-owned company, working alongside our family-owned blueberry program goes hand in hand with our values and business practices.”
Throughout the pandemic, Superfresh Growers has been nimble working through regulations and making sure it has the PPE necessary to protect all teammates in the company.
“As we head into this second season of the pandemic, we are proud of our high vaccination rates,” Gipe-Stewart said. “Our blueberry packing line is nearly all vaccinated. Employee and food safety has been our top priority, and we are so glad to be able to enter this harvest with a vaccinated crew of teammates.”
Superfresh Growers is always thinking about expanding and believes its best opportunities for growth will come from co-merchandising with other seasonal Northwest fruit, like Superfresh cherries.
“These two are both loaded with anthocyanins, are both harbingers of summer seasonal fruit, and are a great way to entice customers to make impulse purchases to take advantage of the season,” Gipe-Stewart said.
Gipe-Stewart feels that berries are popular and dominating produce today because retailers are doing everything right — having them available in jumbo options and organic options, co-merchandising with other berries, and putting them right up at the front of the store.
Looking ahead to this season, Superfresh Growers expect big fruit both in size and volume.
“We heavily pruned in the fall and winter, promoting vigorous growth,” Gipe-Stewart said. “This hard pruning forces more nutrients into less berries, creating larger fruit. Healthy new growth will lead to better yields in the future.”
Pollination ended in late May and the bees were very happy, resulting in good pollination across the fields.
“Harvest for us will start around June 16, weather depending,” Gipe-Stewart said. “We will be packing organic and conventional blueberries out of the gate.”
Elsewhere around the company, kiwi berries are on people’s minds.
“In the fall, our blueberry picking teams will wrap up blues and begin picking kiwi berries in mid-September,” Gipe-Stewart said. “The kiwi berry harvest is looking large and healthy. It’s too early to confirm, but all signs lead to high sugar levels and amazing tasting fruit this fall.”