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Family run blueberry business called Bowerman Blueberries has a U-pick field in Holland Michigan.

INDUSTRY EDGE

FEATURES

U-Pick Blueberry Farm On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Bowerman Blueberries in Holland Started As A Roadside Stand That Grew Into A Farm Market Growing 90 Acres Of Blueberries

Fresh Picked Blueberries From Bowerman Farm In Holland [Courtesy/Bowerman Blueberries]

Blueberries are native Michigan.  Grown best on the shores of Lake Michigan, Michigan is one of the top producers or blueberries in the United States.  “Grandpa loved to eat blueberries,” says Tom Parker, retail manager for Bowerman Blueberries in Holland, Michigan, “it’s as simple as that.”  Grandpa was William Bowerman.  William and his wife bought blueberry stock and moved them to about 20 acres the first year.  “The first blueberry bushes were planted on the farm in 1948, the year that Randy was born,” explains Kassie Grasmanis, granddaughter of William and Winifred.  Grasmanis explains that they started into blueberries because Bill loved them and raising turkeys was not enough to support their family.

Though it was Bill Bowerman who loved blueberries, it was Winnie, or Grandma Bowerman, that first made a roadside stand.  “Winnie loved being outdoors and in her garden,” explains Grasmanis, “Farming was in her heart and soul.”  She made a simple unmanned roadside stand and sold her blueberries, as well as many other fruits and vegetables like strawberries, sweet corn, beans, peas, and potatoes.  She gardened until the summer of 2015 and “passed away in February of 2016,” Grasmanis says.  

The Farm Market At Bowerman Blueberry Farm, Michigan [Courtesy/Bowerman Blueberries]
The Farm's Popular Blueberry Donuts Ready To Eat [Courtesy/Bowerman Blueberries]

Many of their customers from the start were visitors from nearby Chicago and Detroit, as well as people from Holland.  Holland, Michigan is a town on Lake Michigan that, like the name suggests, is named after its more famous Dutch counterpart.  The history of the town is similar to many American stories and adds in the northern USA elements of grit and hardship that comes along with long, cold winters.  Tracing its origins back to Rotterdam, Netherlands, the town came to being in 1847.  Back then, as much of Southwest Michigan still is today, the area was forested and had bluffs overlooking beautiful Lake Michigan.  The early settlers used the lumber from the trees as a form of commerce, as well as a way to make their log homes.  The town waxed and waned for years and is characterized by pushing through hardships with economy, fires, and, of course, the winter.  In the 20s the town brought Tulips over from the Netherlands and ever since then, they have had an annual Tulip Festival in May.  Readers Digest has named the Festival the “Best Small Town Festival” in the country.  About Holland, Parker says, “It’s a diverse group of people that live here.  The people are friendly, it has a charming downtown, and is named one of the happiest places to live and work.” 

In 1993, the first manned roadside stand came up at Bowerman Blueberries.  “This was my first real job,” Grasmanis says, “I would work hard to get everything weighed and packed because then as I waited for customers I could read my books!”  Michigan summers are storybook summers - green flowing grass, tall oak and pine trees, creeks and country roads.  Grasminis recalls these experiences, along with summer breezes and growing up on the farm, “In the evenings, we would ride to deliver blueberries in my Dad’s semi.  I remember always stopping on the way home at Frosty’s for my favorite bubble gum ice cream!”

Young Child Picks Some Berries For Himself [Courtesy/Bowerman Blueberries]
Group Pic Of Family In The Blueberry Business [Courtesy/Bowerman Blueberries]
The Roadside Blueberry Stand Of William & Winnie Bowerman [Courtesy/Bowerman Blueberries]

The farm continues to grow, but for now, 100 acres is enough.  Parker explains, “As of today that’s where we are at.  I’ll never say no to expand, but we are happy for what we have.”  Parker says he has seen the market change since the 8 years he has been with the farm.  “Mostly financially,” Parker says, “there’s a lot more competition from a global market.”  He says that domestic berries - from Florida, Georgia, and Michigan - have a harder time competing.  “250 million pounds of berries are imported into the US from places like South America,” Parker says. 

Because of these factors, keeping solid community support and localizing their product is essential.  “Holland is really great to us,” explains Parker, “they take pride in supporting the farm.”  They get people from Chicago and vacationers.  “We have a u-pick area, baked goods, playground and things like that,” Parker says.  He also says the blueberry donuts are a huge hit.

These factors contribute to the 50-plus year history of Bowerman Blueberries, but probably the biggest factor in its success is family and the love of farm life.  “Farming is not a job, but a way of life,” explains Grasminis, “We grew up learning by seeing firsthand what hard work and sacrifice looks like.” Something that started with Winnie and Bill Bowerman, is now in the hands of their youngest son Randy and his kids, as well as great-grandkids that will inherit jobs that the father of our nation, George Washington, says is the “most healthful, most useful, and most noble employment of man.”


Andrew Malo

A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Education, Andrew has taught for the past decade in Chicago, New Mexico, and Japan.  He  enjoys tinkering with trucks and motorcycles, woodworking, reading and computer programming.  

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