on Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Celebrating 80 years of farming this year, S. Kamphuis Blueberries is a 5th generation farm in West Michigan that produces around 1 million pounds of blueberries each year. Family is at the center of the operation, whether they’re supplying to local businesses or working at their U-Pick market. GreenMark team members stopped by the farm to take part in their first week of U-Pick season, to get some firsthand tips and tricks on blueberry picking and harvesting, and talk about John Deere with the family.
Above: (From left to right) Eric, Bonnie, Scott, and Amy pose by their farm.
“One of my favorite memories would be planting this farm with my grandparents when I was 15 years old,” Scott Kamphuis shares while pointing out different fields at the U-Pick market. These fields are now a part of 15 U-Pick acres managed by his daughter, Amy. When asked what her favorite memory is at the farm, Amy laughed and said, “It wasn’t my favorite when I was a child, but picking a bucket of blueberries every day. I had to, it was part of my chores! I’m going to make my kids do it too.” Amy’s brother, Eric, maintains fields where blueberries are grown for processing and packaging. Scott’s wife, Bonnie, is also still very involved with the farm and started the U-Pick out of their garage when Amy and Eric were children.
Above: (Left) Scott proudly holds a photo of his grandfather on one of their first pieces of John Deere equipment. (Right) The family's John Deere 420 is displayed in the store for customers to admire.
John Deere has played a role in the Kamphuis’s farm in so many ways. A restored 420 model can be seen in the main building alongside a picture of Scott’s parents, Eric’s childhood tractor sat next to a Z-Trak mower that was parked outside, and by the fields were John Deere specialty tractors.
So what equipment is getting the most use at S. Kamphuis Blueberries?
With all the acres of blueberry bushes at the farm, it’s easy to assume the blueberry harvester is the most used piece of equipment. According to Scott, “It’s the tractors actually – that's year round!” The John Deere tractors used by S. Kamphuis Blueberries are specifically designed for work in orchards and vineyards and allows the farmer to drive between the rows of crops. John Deere’s specialty tractors include their low profile, high crop, and narrow series tractors.
John Deere tractors get the most use at S. Kamphuis Blueberries, as they are used all year!
So what should people know when they’re picking blueberries for the first time?
“Pick underneath the bush! A lot of people don’t go and get on their knees to pick there,” Amy says. This is a great way to avoid an area that has been over picked at the top of the bush and at eye level. Another tip is to walk further away from the main spot. There, you’ll be able to pick the biggest, blue ones you can find. Amy’s last piece of advice? Make sure you taste test them!
What is a good age to go pick blueberries?
It’s fun for everyone no matter what age. Amy herself, started “helping” with the U-Pick when she was three! “We just want you to have fun picking in the fields,” she says laughing.
When is the best time of day to pick blueberries?
“I would say right when we open or mid-morning is probably the best time to pick,” Amy shares. Not only do you have a chance at getting first pick of the fields, but you can also avoid being out in the sun and summer heat for a long period of time.
How many varieties of blueberries does the farm have?
The U-Pick area has three different types – Bluecrop, Blueray, and Jersey. The farm also produces additional varieties for processing including Duke, Liberty, and Spartan. Everyone seems to have a different favorite type – while they both like Liberty, Amy prefers Bluecrop, while Scott likes the Blueray.
A blueberry bush growing at S. Kamphuis Blueberries in West Michigan.
“I love seeing new customers, and seeing our old customers too that come back year over year. It warms my heart,” Amy says after talking with some regular customers. U-Pick season typically runs from mid July through early August, so find a farm by you and take part in this family-friendly summer activity!