Voices from the Farm: Blueberries of B&B Farms
Having gotten wind that some of the sweetest blueberries in Massachusetts can be found at a small farm named B&B in New Braintree, making the trip to visit the farm became a must. Day driving deep into Central Massachusetts, the landscape that awaits is an absolute scenic treat. The country roads turn to shaded tunnels as the sun beats down, sandwiched between rolling farmlands bordered by towering trees and rock walls splashed orange by blooming daylilies. Through the leaves on pastures in the distance, tractors are parked on hilltops resting. It feels 100% like a dreamy summer road trip.
Spending the morning visiting B&B farms and chatting with farmer Cathy Beyer was such a delightful experience. We talked about growing food naturally, experimenting with new crops, and of course, blueberries. All this conversation happened while riding through windy trails of farmland on a John Deere Gator. Let's just say, it was a pretty stellar day.
In the mid-eighties, Cathy took over the farm and has been growing in a rhythm and manner that works for her, simple and clean. Her presence is ultra-calm; she is a woman of quiet confidence and sensibility. She talks about clean farming, which is her philosophy of growing food naturally, without any pesticides in a no brainer manner. Cathy explains, "I certainly don't want to eat pesticides, we have no idea what it does when it breaks down. I'd rather work within the wildlife, sharing with the birds and bees. If people are interested in growing good stuff, they should do it regardless."
We hop onto the Gator to tour around the farm a bit. B&B may be best known for their berries, but they have all the familiar vegetable staples. Driving down a pathway of onions bulging from the soil, Cathy promptly stops and hops out of the Gator. Pulling one out of the ground, it's hard not to marvel at the pure magic of farming. Even more, she explains that this particular onion is a Ringmaster, which has a single center perfect for making onion rings. As we carry on admiring peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and more, the conversation turns to choosing what to grow. "It has to taste good and be nutritious; otherwise, I don't bother. I have seen over the years what works best for my customers, and I am happy with that."
Onward we head to the adjacent field that is flanked by an old barn that looks like it has seen endless seasons. It stands guard over Cathy's newest experiment, kiwi's that are the size of grapes. At this point, it is easy to be straight-up smitten with this farm. But we had no idea what lay ahead. "Hold on," Cathy advises, and we head off to the far-field on winding pathways leading eventually into the woods. A clearing emerges with a high fenced barrier, and it becomes clear that those praised blueberries grow in a secret garden nestled in the forest!
We enter the gates, and the motor silences. The serene sounds found in the forest unfold in the air around us. It feels almost holy. Cathy hangs a small bucket from her neck and gets right to work picking. "Roll the berries with your fingers in your hand until it falls off and be sure not to pick the green ones," she advises. It is so quiet; you can hear them drop into her bucket (kerplink - kerplank - kerplunk).
So what's the verdict on the berries? Incredible sweetness. Cathy advises buying a flat because they freeze so well, and can be enjoyed well after the season is over. In addition to eating them fresh, Cathy suggested her favorite, "If you add two cups of blueberries to a simple zucchini bread recipe, you will get plenty of antioxidants. Toast it up with a little butter, and it is out of this world!"