|A Brief History of Linbo Blueberry Farm
In 1940 at the end of the Great Depression and on the cusp of World War II, the farmhouse was built at the a “T” in the road and the blueberry field was planted in a spring fed natural bog. The blueberry cultivars planted were chosen to each ripen at different times to spread out the fruit production through out the summer. More importantly, the cultivars were chosen for fruit quality and taste. Thankfully, due to the long lifespan of the blueberry plants, we still have most of these first plants as the backbone for our present field.
Over the years, more plants have been added to the field, some expanding the field, some inter-planted in the field and some planted to replace dead plants. Unlike modern cultivars, which are grown for “shelf-life” and “ship-ability,” our farm the cultivars were chosen for taste and quality. The berries at our farm were more delicate requiring them to always be handpicked.
In the early 1960s, the farm “modernized.” A barn was raised and our “state-of-the-art” blueberry sorter was added. This stunning machine still chugs along, sorting the berries of our visitors.
The 70s brought the realization that farmland in the Puget Sound was being paved over at an ever growing rate. In 1979 King County voted to protect a fourth of its farmland. Even with this legislation King County lost over 50,000 acres of farmland between 1969 and 2000.
Pierce County has the same problems as King County but often ignores them. In 1985 Pierce County voters vote down a program to support farmland protection. Farms were being cut up and paved over, will continue to be cut up and paved over. In the early 90s our farm stopped. It had had a good 50-year run but the farmer had grown old and the world of farming had drastically changed. The farm was sold and cut up, like so many others. The natural bog that made this farm stunningly great for growing blueberries meant, unlike most farmland, the field couldn’t be paved over. We were lucky, but sadly between 1995 and 2004 Washington State lost 3,000 other farms.
|THEN AND NOW: The blueberry field
1940 picture from the US Corp of Engineering aerial survey of the Puyallup River
2007 picture from Google Earth
A new beginning
In 1998, we bought the farm and Linbo Blueberry Farm was started! It took a lot of work to bring the field back from abandonment but in the first year it was on the mend and we opened for our first U-pick season. That first season showed the amazing fruit the farm grew. A farm is a lot of work, in this modern globalized world there’s a lot of competition. What we have to offer is amazingly tasty fruit that can’t be mechanically picked, can’t be crated up and shipped across the country or across the world. For U-picking we have unique fruit to offer but there is more than just fruit to enjoy at the farm. The first season we started the tradition of playing classic music while picking.
We depend on native bumblebees to pollinate our blueberry and want to help them as much as possible. To combat the decline in native pollinators due to the loss of farmland and the overuse of pesticides by growing urbanization, we have added native plant buffers and started yearly plantings of dahlias and sunflowers.
The hard job of keeping the farming got a little easier in 2001 as Pierce County passed the “Right to Farm” ordinance to protect all farming methods from encroaching houses and shops.
In 2002, we realized the history behind the blueberry field and its amazing fruit and old bushes. Our bushes came from an era when fruit quality was judged by taste (do this as you come to pick in our field) not how it looks on a shelf or how well is shipped. Sadly, the current markets of fruit and the available cultivars are driven this way. We don’t want to replace our great berries with what the market has to offer. So we have started to grow plants from our current field. We’ve had success with starting both seeds and cuttings and we may work on other methods to grow new plants.
In 2005 our only full time employee was added, Drift the farm dog. Before the 2008 season, Drift left this farm for the bigger one in the sky.
In the fall of 2008, Katie steps up to be the new farm dog.