Blueberry Festival expands in second year

By Max Marcus, The Recorder, July 22, 2019

WHATELY — Quonquont Farm drew local chefs, brewers and many fans of the farm’s blueberries to its Blueberry Festival on Sunday.

The farm held a similar but smaller festival last year at its farmstand. This year’s festival grew to be held in the larger, air-conditioned farmhouse, where local brewers offered tastes of seasonal blueberry-flavored drinks, and blueberry recipes by amateur and professional chefs were available for visitors to sample and vote on in a contest.

“This is proving super popular,” said Quonquont Farm co-owner Allison Bell. “It’s a great way to show off all the kinds of things you can do with blueberries.”

The festival was imagined last year as a community event, and as a way to draw attention to blueberry season, Bell said. The festival was timed for the peak of the season, she explained: blueberry season normally starts around the second week of July, and lasts about a month.

Quonquont Farm allows customers to pick their own blueberries. The farm has its devotees, like Shuk Wuen of Montague, who has been visiting just about every week during harvest seasons since even before the current owners took it over in 2001. She explained that she picks large quantities, then keeps the extras in her freezer for after the season ends.

Other than blueberries, Quonquont Farm also grows peaches, the season for which overlaps with blueberry season, but starts earlier and ends later; and apples, which are harvested in the fall.

“I tried different places, but I find I like theirs the best,” Wuen said. “I like the kids to know where their food comes from.”

Celebration and education

As well as being a celebration of eating and cooking with blueberries, the Blueberry Festival is also about how they are grown, Bell said. In the garden outside the farmhouse, Fred Morrison, a retired science teacher from Westhampton, spoke about how bees contribute to the pollination of plants like blueberry bushes.

Flowering plants and bees have always been interdependent, having both evolved around the same time during the Cretaceous Period, the era lasting from about 145 million years ago to about 66 million years ago, Morrison said.

Flowering plants reproduce by spreading pollen to other plants. Bees use pollen to make their food; so as a bee goes from plant to plant collecting pollen, it incidentally imparts other plants’ pollen while it takes pollen for itself, Morrison said, which diversifies the plants’ gene pools.

But Morrison’s bees — just carcasses preserved in a glass case — seemed to be the less popular of his two displays.

His live silkworms, in a makeshift terrarium of a basket filled with branches and leaves, came with an explanation of the slow process of turning the cocoon into silk: eight hours of constant work yields about a quarter of a bobbin of thread, he explained. Attendees also got to hold the silkworms themselves.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.