In South Jersey, blueberries ripe for picking

TABERNACLE, N.J. (WPVI) -- It's the height of blueberry season right now, a six-week period that has workers at Moore's Meadow Farm in Tabernacle, New Jersey, picking the tasty fruit with lightning speed from sun up to sundown.

Farmer Sam Moore tells us he is happy with his crop.

"The crop's really good this year. New Jersey blueberries, there's plenty of them and the quality is fantastic," said Moore. "When you're looking for a quality of a blueberry that's what you look, that real powder-looking blue. That's what the customer wants."

Blueberries thrive in South Jersey's sandy soil. Workers pick 2,000 crates a day in peak season. The berries are hauled onto a truck and sent to the farm's processing plant where they are sorted, packed and shipped to a broker.

You'll find Moore's berries on supermarket shelves under the name of Top Crop. It's something of a family affair.

"My grandpa, he's really proud of the whole farm here. Passed down to my uncle and then to my cousin over here," said Gary Andress, plant worker. "They all love it. It's just nonstop blueberries."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the blueberry being introduced to consumers for sale. They were first cultivated by Elizabeth Coleman White, a resident of the Jersey Pine Barrens.

New Jersey's $80 billion blueberry crop is the 5th largest in the nation. More than 66 million pounds are produced annually, but it isn't always easy.

At Variety Farms in Hammonton, the town that calls itself the 'Blueberry Capitol of the World,' Farmer Dave Berger says he lost 50 percent of his early crop because of weather problems.

"We bring the bees in to do our pollination and then we had eight days of rainy weather, and the bees stayed in the box. They didn't come out and do their work," said Farmer Dave Berger.

Thankfully his mid- and late-season crop is doing well, but it was a painful reminder that farmers are always at the mercy of Mother Nature.
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