C h i l d s B l u e b e r r y F a r m--A Mountaintop Perfect for Blueberries!
Native American Name--Wa Tera Swo: Onondaga for "Land of Happy Dreams"
Childs motto: Under Promise--Over Deliver
For the best tasting, sorted 3 times, fresh picked and organically grown pest free blueberries buy Childs Blueberries. Foremost in Quality!
Childs Blueberry Farm Newsletter & Recipes to Rave About 2012
1. CLICK THE LINKS ABOVE FOR FARMER MARKET LOCATIONS AND TIMES WHERE WE ARE
2. FOR YOU PICK DIRECTIONS AND WHAT TO BRING CLICK THAT LINK ABOVE.
3. PRIOR TO LEAVING, CHECK OUT OUR RECIPES TO RAVE ABOUT LINK--you may find many of these copied and pasted around the web but for the inclusive and free version that started 28 years ago with Daniel and Audrey Childs, here it is! We thank the many customers who donated their "own" recipes to us to distribute, many of them passed down generation to generation. Before we handed out the recipes at markets over the decades, I got to sample each one and that has been a epicurean delight. Thank you!
Blueberry Smoothie: I have lost 21 true pounds in 2 years by switching to this for breakfast 6 out of 7 days a week. The doctor wanted me to take statins but now after two years of this and really no other changes, my numbers are all in acceptable ranges without taking statins. See our recipe link above for the full story.
4. READ ON AND BE AMAZED BY WHAT GOES INTO GROWING A BLUEBERRY SO IT TASTES LIKE A CHILDS BLUEBERRY!
Organic—It is about prioritizing healthier choices,
A healthier lifestyle
and improved quality of life
We welcome you to experience superbly flavored blueberries. Our berries are grown in soil never touched by the glaciers @ 2400 feet. Blueberries grow wild on mountain tops like ours and that is one factor in why these berries taste so good and grow so darn well. Blueberries can be grown in the flatlands by chemically adjusting the soil but the difference is noticeable from those grown on our hill.
There is a difference you can taste--not all blueberries are created equal. Childs Blueberries have had hardwood sawdust piled high year after year around each bush, proper nutrients via expensive but effective organic fertilizers, proper pruning, isolation from diseased farms, berries sorted three times, berries picked at the peak of ripeness, superb pollination because we don't kill our honey and bumble bees with Imidacloprid and other pesticides, laboratory analysis of leaf samples, "live" soil with microbes so the soil is alive and the bushes are able to uptake the nutrients ("cides" kill microbes=dead soil=no uptake of fertilizers by bushes=lousy flavor & mushy), pheromone traps to monitor and quickly respond to invading pest situations and a few extremely valuable trade secrets passed on by the old timers by word of mouth. How big is the farm? When we start weeding at the first row and go up and down each row until we reach the last bush on the last row--we have traveled more than 4 miles--about 10,000 bushes. You probably know if you have had our berries how much better they are than others.
At Childs Blueberries we are shooting for the rigorous USA Organic Certification that trumps all other forms of farming for quality, by 2015--our 30th year of doing business.
What we do differently: For herbicides we are using the weed whacker, hand and knees weeding and organic citrus oil. For fungicides we are using organic certified lime and sulfur applied during dormancy and for insecticides we are using organic certified spinosad and for fertilizer we are using organic kelp, emulsified trout and pasteurized organic approved chicken manure. That is just part of the story...
Mechanical Harvester, Herbicides, Fungicides and Pesticides=Cheaper Berries!: You might say—why not use a mechanical harvester so your berries are cheaper and I say these picking machines are the reason most, if not all of the mass produced store berries are bruised, lacking flavor and so heavily sprayed with herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. The added sprays are needed because so much waste falls to the ground it is a breeding ground for pests thus needing more sprays, plus the bushes are damaged and need large quantities of fungicides to ward off infection and the fruit only falls well for the machines if the bush is 70% ripe and that really means that at least 25% of that fruit is over ripe and slightly rancid in flavor. Frozen mechanically harvested blueberries are even more rancid in flavor.
Childs Blueberries are far superior in health benefits that anything you can buy at a grocery re-seller or at most, if not all, markets. We appreciate your business and look forward to seeing you at the market come rain or shine. Please tell your friends as word of mouth is our best advertising. Watch for our limited time, top quality Peak Season Specials.
But that is not the whole story---So here are the reasons for the flavor and sweetness that sets our berries apart from not lacing them with chemicals--YES, it is AMAZING but there is more...
When my parents first bought our land on top of Cooper Hill we noticed there were many wild blueberries growing on the land--a good foreshadowing of how well our cultivated blueberries would do.
1. Per Cornell and Rutgers Universities teachings, we us pheromone traps to monitor the field for pests. If we catch one pest in the trap, we spray with a mild organic pesticide and nip the problem in the bud, sort of like preventative medicine catches an illness early while it is still treatable. If we had not caught that one pest, it would have multiplied into zillions and we would have to spray with major duty pesticides every 8 to 10 days pretty much forever since the gestation period for pests varies from 1 to 3 years. The only proper solution is to micromanage the field and monitor it constantly, year after year, as Cornell and Rutgers recommends. IF we do spray, it will be with an organic spray that costs 10 times as much but is safe for our customer and ourselves.
2. Childs Blueberry Farm's Unique Soil--Naturally acidic. A huge reason our blueberries are so sweet is because our soil is unique. Blueberries grow naturally on hilltops in places where many crops; such as, tomatoes, corn or beans would fail. Years back, we had a group of 8-10 geologists and archeologists out on a field adventure approach us and ask to scout around. They came rushing back hours into their adventure to excitedly tell us that the "glaciers stopped right over there" pointing just down the hill. Childs Hilltop at 2400 feet did not have the soil amalgamated by the glaciers and thus it retained the naturally acidic, unique components and micro-nutrients that are like heaven on earth to blueberry bushes. Twenty miles away in the Allegany State Park "Thunder Rocks" is another mountain top that the glaciers missed. Many farmers in lowlands have tried to force a blueberry field to grow the fruit by chemically adjusting their soil but this is reflected in the flavor of the berry. That is why so many people have said these Childs Blueberries are the sweetest blueberries on Earth. We do our best to do our part as the grower but some of the credit for such great flavor goes to having the right crop planted in the right soil!
3. Pruning. Our biggest off season task is properly pruning the field each year but we feel this helps keep the diseases out, berries sweet and berry size up. Each year, we burn a pile of pruning's the size of a barn. Some farmers chip the pruning's and put the chips on their bushes or mulch. That to us is like giving someone a hanky that was used by someone else with a cold. The reason a cane dies back might be old age or it might be a disease that will have to be treated with chemicals. By cutting the canes out and burning them, we are practicing IPM properly.
4. Pick the Field Clean. Each season we pick the field pretty much clean and like a clean kitchen, that helps to keep the pests out. Mechanical harvester pick the berries while still bluish red or after they are over ripe and while doing so, bruises the fruit lowering quality but most importantly, 20-45% of the crop falls to the ground. The berries on the ground are breeding grounds for pests, which these big farms combat with massive chemical applications. The only way to for a mechanical harvester to work is for the bush to be 70% ripe but by waiting this long, many of the berries are over ripe and rancid in flavor. God bless local farmers markets which still have hand picked berries like ours!
5. Isolation. Our Humphrey, NY fields are isolated from other farms. As with all professionals, some people are better at their job than others and farming is no exception. If we had another blueberry farm nearby where the farmer skipped even one of the steps detailed here, their pests would spread to our fields and contaminate it. Isolation is sometimes a blessings but I will say as Daniel Boone did, "we need more elbow room". The isolation is not as isolated as it once was and this worries me....but on with the story!
The better the pollination, the larger and sweeter the berry. That is a fact. Most farms kill many of the bees with their chemicals and that affects their pollination. A world without bees would be very scary. Our friend, Bill Phersdorf--the bee man, provides us with fabulous pollination by providing a plethora of bees for our fields. We also use Penn States electric fence pen design to keep traveling black bears from destroying the hives.
Over the last 25+ years we have put enough hardwood sawdust on each bush to reach the top of a first floor building. As the sawdust composts down, it a. keeps weeds out, b. retains soil moisture and c. adds nutrients that naturally adds acidity to the soil.
8. Proper Fertilization and Micronutrients
A laboratory analysis of leaf samples allows us to determine which soil components are out of proportion for perfect blueberry growth and formulate a custom blend fertilizer with ingredients the same as those listed on the back of a vitamin supplement bottle.
This year we added "fertigation" so that when we irrigate, we can put trace elements right in the irrigation water and this helps have a healthy blueberry field & crop. We use drip irrigation, which is the most efficient irrigation method and use water from our wildlife pond.
9. Small Operators versus Conglomerate Farming
To me, one of the biggest problems with large mass production farms is their inability to micromanage the field and the use of water baths to sort the berries. Berries are picked on huge farms--the kind that uses major chemicals to grown their product because that is the only way to farm on this scale--and sent by semi truck to a processing plant. Berries are run through a water bath so the green berries sink to the bottom. The bath water collects residual pesticides as each berry is dropped in and passes through the water in the bath, which has no effective flushing system. I can't imagine being soaked in a pesticide bath just prior to being dropped into a plastic clamshell can be a good thing and what really gets me is the claim is then made that the berries have been "washed"!
10. Hard Work
For quality, small fruit growing there really is no substitute for on your hands and knees, bug swatting, bending, pulling, pushing, repetitious, hot and/or cold hard work. Some farmers have become "tractor jockeys" seldom getting out of the cab--and that is hard work too, but of a different nature. Our field is small enough that it can be micromanaged in a labor intensive way that results in an excellent outcome.
My Dad applied the phrase "Childs Play" to our "work" growing up. It is not work if you like doing it...it is Childs Play! That is how I feel about farming. I enjoy growing some really great blueberries and really appreciate the customers who loyally buy them all summer long. The only way to grow blueberries like ours is to micromanage the field and put in long hours of physical labor. When I start at one end of the field and walk down the rows, by the time I get to the end of the last bush in the field, I have walked over 4 miles. Each of those bushes is pruned, weeded, irrigated, fertilized, mulched and picked and I do a great deal of that.
We hire pickers who are local high school students, college students, senior citizens (who like a little extra money/company) and also part timers who come to pick berries after they leave regular job. We pay the Social Security matching tax, have workman's compensation and all the other paperwork aspects of running a business.
My Aunt Carmen, who is a retired wedding cake baker, makes her blueberry pie from scratch fresh for each market with berries I give her. We make jams, jellies and syrups in our commercial kitchen and customers just rave about it. My nephews and grandchildren are learning about business getting up at 4:30 a.m. to go to markets with me. My wife Carrie does all the human resource stuff for the ~30+ workers. I manage the farm and market the berries. Bob and Audrey--co-founders of Childs Blueberries, are middle aged (between 70 and 85), and are actively involved in running the You Pick and still go to Saturday's North Tonawanda Farm Market.
Dan Childs, grower
My opinion: Note that in 2005, they were still making baby bottles out of Bisphenol A (BPA) laden plastics sold in grocery stores to unsuspecting parents despite studies available to all involved in the food industry that pointed to the pending BPA conclusive studies of harm. We acted for the good of our customers and upgraded our plastic bags to #4 plastic--BPA free--for our 36,000 run of bags, despite the substantial increase in price. We spent the extra because poisoning my customers is not intelligent or ethical. Today, Reseller (Grocery) Stores are selling you canned goods lined with BPA, frozen fruits and vegetables grown overseas but not labeled as such, raspberry iced teas made and bottled in China (with whose fruit or water?) and the list is endless. Thanks for supporting your local farmers markets. If nothing else, we help keep the big chains (reasonably) honest. It makes a difference.
Chemical Abuse in our Food System: I bought blueberries this winter imported from Chile and the berries virtually “popped” in my mouth when I bit in. In all my years, I have never seen a berry like that and I strongly suspect it is from applying extra fungicides to increase shelf life. In the USA, if the farm follows the rules, these fungicides (used especially heavily in the Northwest) have to be applied 42 days before harvest. The chemical is absorbed into the leaves and stems and then passes into the green berries and that gives the fruit an extraordinarily long shelf life and fights mold, etc. To get a berry to “POP” like that they must really be using a lot of chemicals. We sell raspberries sometimes and a customer complained that they were soft after only two days in her refrigerator. I gave her a new basket but said, “Eat them today or tomorrow or freeze them. Raspberries are delicate and if they last longer than that it is because they have been treated with major chemicals introduced systemically to increase shelf life." If you want the fruit to last longer, buy it from the reseller store but be aware of the chemicals needed to extend that shelf life. Also, be aware that most packaged jams and such are not made with organic fruit so the chemical residue is strong. I believe the reason some people get headaches from one glass of wine is the residue pesticides on the fruit used and their sensitivity to it. Some 25 years ago, I wanted to retail nuts at the market in addition to selling the blueberries we grow. My dad said no because reselling is too easy and so is the money. "There is honor in producing. Be a producer" he said. America--take note--that generation has it right.
Since seeing our commercial on TV and reading about us here, some folks have expressed an interest in our biographies. Here they are, briefly.
Biography of the farmers, in order--Daniel, Carrie, Bob and Audrey:
Dan Childs, 2010 Dan Childs (47), Tom Childs (19), Bob Childs -Mr. Blueberry, 76.
In this photograph, I am in Downtown Buffalo and sold a 1/4 ton of blueberries in 6 hours. Normally I have 1-2 helpers but this day it was a one man show due to last minute illness.
I began "farming" at age 6 picking wild berries at our farm in Humphrey and selling them door to door in South Buffalo and then again in East Aurora when we relocated there in 1967. I was always selling things from peanut brittle and pizzas to produce and at school, I had a school store of candy and popcorn selling out of my locker. I planted summer squash and developed a route in East Aurora where I delivered the squash weekly by bike to customers and sold the surplus in front of the Loblaw's store or at the old EA railroad station. In the early 70's my mother started taking orders via Pennysaver ads for fresh picked blueberries from the farm. We planted many blueberries in the 70's at the farm in Humphrey and in 1985, Childs Blueberries was formed by my father. In 1986, I had a decision to make at age 26--to continue climbing the career ladder in management in corporate America (which meant re-locating) or putting my roots down on the farm, teaching and joining the farm business. I decided on teaching and farming and have never regretted it. Mom felt they could use the help on the farm so I started there picking 6 days a week. Teachers may have summers off but it is without pay, I soon learned so this money really came in handy. I was the first to work and the last to leave and these were very lean years as we started the Childs Blueberry Farm business basically from scratch. Our total sales that second season was less than we sell 25 years later in one Saturday market. My third year and the businesses fourth, I took over the East Aurora Farmers Market while Mom and Dad expanded into North Tonawanda Farmers Market off Robinson Street. That meant, for me, picking 5 days a week and marketing 1 day per week. As the business grew, eventually I was marketing Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and managing the rest of the time. Starting at the bottom of a business and working up has advantages in that I am a better boss today because there is nothing on the farm I have not done or would not do. Basically, I apprenticed with Bob Childs, my father, before taking over the head partner position in 2006-20 years later. I have read pretty much every document ever printed on blueberries at least once so I have both a formal education on farming plus the "school of hard knocks" education that life doles out.
I teach 5-12 grade business and computers at a rural school in Allegany County--Scio Central School. I have managed the Spirit of Christmas Toys for Tots program for 23 years and advised the Future Business Leaders of America Club. The club has sent CARE packages to active duty soldiers every year since Operation Desert Storm. I was also a finalist in 2003 for New York State Teacher of the Year.
Carrie Childs--1997 Carrie Childs, 2010
Carrie is currently serving her third term as the Humphrey Town Supervisor. She decided to run because our taxes on the farm had increased 22% in two years and were slated to go up another 11% with no end in sight. The towns assessment had dropped to 47% so the state was determining the rate increases. The reason the assessment fell to 47% is that people all complain that their house is assessed for too much--say $50,000 but when they sell it, they would get $75,000 and that causes the whole towns assessment to drop in the states eyes. The only way to regain control for the town was a re-assessment, as unpleasant as they are, and Carrie managed that causing the overall tax levy in the town to drop by more than 4%. Carrie has also computerized the town accounting and payroll. She also manages the town website, Humphreytownship.com
Carrie says "I am no politician" and indeed she is not. She has no agenda except to help out the town in a nearly volunteer position. A few nut case, self-serving, south bound end of a north bound mule types, don't appreciate or know how to handle a person in politics with no "agenda". I believe Humphrey has been blessed to get a retired human resource specialist like Carrie to serve them.
Carrie grew up in Sanborn, NY and graduated from Niagara Wheatfield, a lifetime member of the National Honor Society. She has worked for various companies as an administrative assistant, office manager, and Human Resources generalist. She received certification as a Professional in Human Resources in 2003. Her years of experience in "corporate America" have served Childs Blueberry Farm well in the continuing growth of our family business. When Daniel and Carrie met in 1999, she claimed that she didn't like blueberries, but once she tasted a "Childs Blueberry", she became a blueberry fan. Prior to that all she had tasted, like so many other people, were store brand blueberries that lacked flavor and that fresh sweetness folks have become used to getting from Childs. Daniel & Carrie were married September 2, 2000. Since Carrie came on board, sales and production have continued to grow.
Daniel and Carrie's hobby is ballroom dancing for which they make much time during the blueberry off season. They have performed in several recitals and as their friend and dance teacher says, are really pros since slipping a two dollar bill into Daniel's pocket after the first show. "See, now that you have been paid, you are a professional!" :)
Bob in 2009 at age 78, still working a full day and loving it.
Audrey & Bob Childs, 56 in 1987. The would earn the name Mr. & Mrs. Blueberry from their customers.
In 1960, Bob planted his first blueberries in his backyard in S. Buffalo. Audrey and Bob decided to buy land in the Southern Tier and purchased 54 acres where they planted 20 more blueberries. In 1975, on a new parcel of land, Bob and Audrey planted 500 more blueberries and declared he would someday retire and sell blueberries. Audrey was rather skeptical but had faith and indeed, in 1983, Bob did take an early retirement from New York Telephone. How exciting when they sold 50 pounds of blueberries at the East Aurora Farmers Market in 1985 generating $175 in sales. Most customers knew standard fruits and vegetables but what were these little blue berries? "Can we eat them?" "What do you do with them?" Bob and Audrey printed little recipes for muffins and pie and handed them out at market. They tried to create a "blue" motif for their farmers market stand and dressed in matching clothes. After two years, sales had tripled at East Aurora's Saturday market. In 1988, Bob and Audrey turned the East Aurora market over to son Daniel and moved to new territory--North Tonawanda on Robinson St. off Colvin. This was a hucksters market, where much of the produce was bought and re-sold. Customers who knew the market knew which vendors were really "farmers" and grew what they sold and which were "re-sellers". Bob and Audrey also expanded into the Downtown Buffalo market on Thursday. Bob's vision for direct marketing and growing top quality blueberries became a reality. Interesting that a product like blueberries that was not even sold in grocery stores in 1985, has since become a household fruit. Bob was a bit ahead of his time. In the acclaimed book, Highbush Blueberries the acknowledgements lists many doctors of agriculture and then Bob Childs, grower. He is very proud to be included in that list for his practical, real world knowledge of blueberries and blueberry farming.
Bob entered the army at age 17 and served as a radio man in Korea during that war. He was part of the group of soldiers that forged through N. Korea up to the Chosen Reservoir where the Chinese flooded across the Korean border and entered the war forcing American troops to withdraw back to the beaches, ships and S. Korea. For most of my life, the US government denied this ever happened so when I would tell my teachers about this, they would say, "The United States never did that." Essentially, the message was, "Your dad is telling stories" Now all that is declassified and of course, true.
Bob was the middle weight Golden Gloves boxing champion. After Korea, he spent two weeks in Japan and then was shipped to Nevada where he donned a radioactivity badge and "invaded" 17 nuclear blasts before his badge indicated he had absorbed enough radioactivity to be discharged. The idea was to blow up a nuclear bomb in the desert either underground or on platforms and then the soldiers tried to navigate to a destination or target using a Geiger counter. It was deemed that nuclear bombs could not be used as tactical weapons against a "million man army" as a result of these tests. Bob, at age 79, feels he was lucky because he got to hold the Geiger counter whereas most of the
men did not and perhaps that is why he has not noticeably suffered from the 17 different nuclear blasts that went off less than 1/2 a mile from his location or maybe it is all the blueberries he eats and blueberry wine he drinks. Thanks to the GI bill, Bob was able to be the first of his family to go to college graduating from Erie Community College with a degree in Electricity. Married August 7, 1954 to Audrey Thompson, Bob went to work at NY Tel/AT&T. His friends were making three times that at Bethlehem Steel but Bob felt the phone company had a better future. Audrey worked as a secretary at the same time.
Audrey retired from the East Aurora school system in 1983. She worked as a cafeteria monitor and teachers aide. Audrey test marketed blueberries in the early 70's by sending her kids door to door with berries and also by placing ads in the EA Penny saver for pre-picked berries available by advanced order. Audrey works side by side with Bob at markets and at the farm. She has kept the fields mowed like a lawn for all these years and has never missed a market. Audrey is the one who started handing out "recipes of the week" which later morphed into Daniel's annual "Recipes to Rave About" newsletter. Audrey continues to mow, co-manage the You Pick with Bob and go to the Saturday market in North Tonawanda.
Thanks for taking an interest in our family and our farm. Have you checked out our recipes?
All Rights Reserved. Copy, duplication, use in any way forbidden without express permission of Daniel M. Childs. Childs Blueberries ©® 1983, Taste the Difference ©® 2004, Taste the Top Quality Difference ©® 2004, The Blueberry Ranch©1986, Childs Blueberry Ranch©1986, Childs Blueberry & Buffalo Ranch©2012, Blueberry & Buffalo Ranch©2012, Recipes to Rave About ©® 1986, 100% Everything Nice ©® 1984 , Heaven on Earth ©® 2004, Foremost in Quality ©® 1989, Foremost in Quality Fruit ©® 1989 , Wa Tera Swo©2008 Onondaga for "Land of Happy Dreams", Sweetest Blueberries on the Planet ©2009, Field of Shame ©2010