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Stemilt blueberry volume up in 2011

Blueberry volume numbers are increasing in 2011 for Stemilt Growers Inc., headquartered in Wenatchee, WA. “We will be up 10 to 15 percent this year largely due to new plantings coming into production,” said Communications Manager Brianna Shales. And she said Kyle Mathison, the company’s sole blueberry grower, is the reason the numbers are looking so good.

“He’s the blueberry king,” Ms. Shales told The Produce News June 10.

Mr. Mathison has 100 acres of conventional blues in production in Othello, WA, and at Stemilt Hill in Wenatchee. “Unlike other areas, this growing area is dry and arid,” Ms. Shales said, citing the resulting firm berries. Mr. Mathison uses fertigation to keep the plants healthy. “He can monitor the nutrition going into the bushes,” she added.

Cool weather in Washington will delay this year’s blueberry harvest, expected to begin the second week in July and conclude in mid-August. “The peak harvest will be the third week of July through the second week of August,” Ms. Shales said.

Product is packed at the company’s dedicated Miller Street blueberry line. Pints are the most popular packing option for Stemilt. As the company comes into peak production, two-pound clamshells are also available.

Blues are marketed domestically and sold to all market sectors. Retail customers can take advantage of point-of-sale signage to move product. Ms. Shales said that consumers are learning more about the powerful antioxidant cocktail found in blueberries, and this information is reinforced in the produce department. Posters are also available featuring Mr. Mathison.