Valley Bounty: Bird Haven Blueberry Farm
When Andrew Endris first picked up the phone, he had just come in from chasing a black bear out of his blueberry fields. “This was the first time one had ever made its way into the netting,” he explained—merely 10 feet away from one of his employees!
Andrew Endris and his wife Emily Endris are now in their fourth year of being the owners and operators of Bird Haven Blueberry Farm in Southampton. The farm was established 30 years ago, and the previous owners planted many of the blueberry bushes that Andrew and Emily care for today.
Bird Haven Blueberry Farm currently grows two acres of highbush blueberries totaling nearly 1,100 bushes! They grow 12 different varieties of the crop, including early, mid, and late season varieties. In addition to growing blueberries they also grow black currants, and Asian pears in the fall. While they are mostly a pick-your-own farm, they plan to sell wholesale to Old Friends Farm and Big E’s Supermarket as well.
“We try to make it like a park,” Endris explained, “A place where people can come and hang out and picnic below the trees among the gardens and flowers.” While COVID-19, has put a pause on social gatherings at Bird Haven Blueberry Farm, Endris says that he has received positive feedback this year, “It’s a great opportunity for people to get out of the house, to do an activity that maybe feels familiar to them, and to take home some delicious berries.”
Prior to 2016, Andrew and Emily had no farming experience, but had the dream to one day have a farm to call their own. Since their first season, they have learned some valuable lessons to help things go more smoothly.
“The first season was tough, and there was a steep learning curve,” Endris explained. The first and biggest challenge they had to navigate was how to deal with the notorious spotted wing drosophila (SWD), also known as the spotted wing fruit fly. The spotted wing fruit fly is an invasive pest that targets soft fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. The females lay their eggs in the berries as they begin to ripen. The fruit receives some damage when the eggs are inserted, leaving the berries more susceptible to pathogens, but most of the damage comes from the larvae feeding on the berries.
The previous owners of the farm taught Andrew and Emily how to identify them, and how to protect their crop with sprays. On Bird Haven Blueberry Farm, they detect the presence of the flies by setting traps—covered plastic cups with a hole drilled into it, filled with live yeast and sugar. Additionally, the UMass Agricultural Extension provides an invaluable resource by tracking insect sightings on farms around the region, which helps Endris stay a step ahead.
They started their spray schedule two weeks ago this year, after detecting a few spotted wing flies. Endris explained they will continue to stick to this schedule throughout the summer, alternating between organic pesticide sprays to prevent the fruit flies from becoming resistant to one.
Last year, the Endris’ were able to install netting over the full two acres of blueberry bushes thanks to an MDAR grant. This has allowed them to push their opening day until after July 4th, when the blueberries are fully ripe and the picking is easier. In previous seasons, they have pushed to open their doors earlier, when fewer berries were ripe, so that visitors would scare birds away from the blueberry patch.
Endris said that their five-year plan for the farm is to purchase 12 acres available up the road from the couple’s farm. They would like to do two more acres of blueberries, and venture into growing strawberries, raspberries, and vegetables to offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares—a sales model where consumers sign up directly with a farm to receive local products throughout the growing season.
The heavy rains that we have seen in the Valley recently have been soaked up by the blueberries, allowing them to ripen perfectly for the season. Bird Haven Blueberries anticipates being open for pick-your-own from now all the way through August. Just one mile off the Manahan Rail Trail, bike, walk, or drive over to get your fill of berries. Barring any bears in the netting, Bird Haven Blueberries is open Wednesday—Friday 8-5, Saturday 8-6, and Sunday 8-4.
To find more farms offering pick-your-own berries, check out CISA’s Online Guide at buylocalfood.org/farmguide
Emma Gwyther is the Development Associate at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture).