July is National Blueberry Month. One way to celebrate this delicious fruit is to begin a tradition and pick your own blueberries at Tammen Treeberry Farm in Wilmington.
Starting mid-July, the farm will be open to blueberry lovers.
“This season is running late,” said Bruce Tammen, owner. “Cooler than average temperatures are causing it to be late.”
Once the farm is open, visitors will swarm with their pails or they can borrow ones provided by the farm to collect the blueberries. A tractor will transport visitors to the blueberry bushes. Some tend to pick the entire day, while some come for a couple hours.
While the cost for blueberries is $1.98 per pound, there is no admission to get into the only blueberry farm in the area.
“Not only do we have families coming to the farm, we have bus loads coming from the park districts, YMCA and assistant living homes,” Tammen said. “We even have foreign exchange students and once there was a bus load of tourists from Japan.”
Tammen said back in the day, blueberry picking was predominately done by rural farmers and full-time homemakers, who canned, froze and used the blueberries for baking.
While some people still do that, Tammen said people come out more for the entertainment aspect of it.
“Today the average transactions of blueberries are smaller, but more people are coming to the farm,” Tammen said. “I never visioned that it would turn into what it is today.”
Preparing for Blueberry Season
There is a series of events that needs to be done to produce a full crop of blueberries the following year, said Tammen.
In the fall, Tammen and his workers spray the bushes by hand with a special fertilizer.
And there is always pruning and mowing.
In the spring, Tammen said he hires a beekeeper to bring bees to the farm. The bees are released in the 50 acres of blueberry fields for them to pollinate the plants.
Condiments and Benefits of Blueberries
Customers can also purchase jams, maple syrup and pickled products that are canned by a local distributor. Tammen also provides its customers with pamphlets that include blueberry recipes and the health benefits of blueberries.
History of Tammen Treeberry Farm
Tammenʼs father was a soil tester from Iroquois County. As a soil tester, he would travel throughout the surrounding counties and test the soil to determine if it was suitable for area farmers to plant crops. One year he did well in the business and decided to invest in some land for himself, Tammen said.
The land he bought, which is the farm today, was unsuitable to plant corn, said Tammen. However, the back portion of the farm was acidic and ideal for planting blueberries. A good portion of the land consisted of sandy soil, but was suitable for planting Christmas trees, Tammen said..
In 1956, Tammen said his father planted the first Christmas trees. In 1964, the first blueberry bushes were added to the farm.
After a few years of growing, Tammen said the farm opened to the public. The holiday season of 1970 was the first time customers could come and cut down and purchase Christmas trees. Prior to that, the trees were sold wholesale. Blueberry picking saw its first pickers the summer of 1967, Tammen said.
There are 150 acres where evergreen trees are growing, Tammen said. The farm opens the day after Thanksgiving to customers who like to cut their own tree for holiday decorating. The cost to cut a tree down is $50, Tammen said. Firs and Scotch Pines are available.
While many continue this tradition,Tammen said he has seen a decrease in tree sales. He said he believes sales have decreased partially because of artificial trees and baby boomers traveling more and not putting up a tree during the holidays.
The farms hours are 8 a.m. till 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. They are closed on Sundays.