Aug. 4, 2018 — Healthy lifestyle choices are proving to be an important element in the movement to extend and enhance an individual’s quality of life. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that affirms the advice of generations of parents: eat your fruits and vegetables.
This is particularly true when the fruits and vegetables are in season and at peak ripeness.
This advice becomes simple to follow in the Siuslaw region at this time of year, as the variety and abundance of local farms is readily available at regional farmers markets and at more traditional grocery stores.
One of the most potent fruits in terms of its purported and documented benefits is the humble blueberry.
Fortunately, the revitalized Clear Lake Blueberry Farm, 84173 Clear Lake Road in Dunes City,
has hundreds of bushes that are loaded with ripe delicious berries, waiting to be picked. The farm was purchased last year by Debbie and Duane Cray, who had been looking for the right spot to settle down in the Florence area.
“We moved in last year on the first of June,” Debbie said. “My husband retired after working 37 years for Shell Oil Company and he likes to keep busy, so we thought this would be a good fit, because there is always a lot to do out here.”
The serene location of the property and the beauty of the farm itself were strong reasons for the Crays to purchase the farm, but there was also some hesitation in making the move.
“Our realtor told us that people had been coming here for 30 years to pick blueberries. And that made me kind of nervous,” Debbie said. “I didn’t want to take a chance that we would ruin this place and the memories people had, so on the last day that we were looking at houses, as we drove up here we were just in awe.
“I knew I was going to like it a lot, and then, when I looked at the house, I knew this was the right place for us, since I love old houses. … So we talked about it and decided to go ahead with the purchase.”
The Crays had no previous experience as farmers and basically dove into their new life with little or no preparation beforehand.
“When we moved in, we were really just thrown into it,” Debbie said. “We moved in in June and opened on Aug. 1, and we had no idea what to expect. But we met so many people.”
She said last year’s crop was not ideal, but that people loved coming to the farm and meeting the new owners.
Over the last two decades, researchers have spent a great deal of time breaking the blueberry down into its constituent parts and have determined the benefits of eating the berries are substantial.
Medical advice website Healthline.com states that, “Blueberries are the king of antioxidant foods.”
The BBC also touts the health benefits of the berry, stating that its numerous advantages are due mainly to anthocyanidins, which research has shown supports blood vessel integrity throughout the body.
The long list of benefits attributed to the fruit, as highlighted by Healthline, declares that blueberries can reduce DNA damage, help protect against aging, lower blood pressure, help maintain brain function, improve memory, prevent heart disease and even provide anti-diabetic effects.
The Crays are pleased with years crop, which is substantially larger than their first.
“We have three to five times more berries this year than we did last year. In the off season, we pruned all the bushes way back. The Master Recyclers in Florence donated a lot of coffee grounds, and we found a really good organic fertilizer and fertilized them,” Debbie said. “And we haven’t sprayed (pesticides) since we bought the farm.”
The hundreds of berry bushes have a number of varieties represented, including 10 bushes of an unknown variety. And all are bearing tasty purply-blue fruit.
The Crays have spent a great deal of time and effort since purchasing the farm in improving the overall experience for visitors. As the fourth or fifth owners of the farm, they were surprised by the number and variety of bushes they had on the land.
“I counted the bushes myself,” Debbie said. “We have an old map of what was planted where and when. And we have 585 bushes, with nine varieties, that we have identified and one that we don’t know!”
The financial benefits of the blueberry crop to the Oregon economy rivals that of the health benefits to the human body. More than 125 million pounds of berries are projected to be harvested in 2018, with 14,000 acres of the fruit under cultivation by approximately 350 growers.
The cultivation of blueberries in Oregon has shown significant growth over the past decade as the positive benefits of eating the delicious fruit have become more widely known.
The number of farms producing the berries and selling them on site, which the Crays are a prime example, has grown from 4.2 million pounds in 2011 to almost 10 million pounds in 2017.
The Clear Lake Blueberry Farm is just a short, pleasant drive south of Florence. Berries are available for sale, as well as a popular “you pick” option.
For more information on the farm, visit its Facebook page or call 225-326-2139.