There are very few experiences as sweet as picking your own blueberries in the hills of Mercer County. As we round the corner into prime berry-picking season, plan a family trip to the largest u-pick blueberry farm in West Virginia — Blueberry Hill.
Blueberry Hill, located in Flat Top, is home to 15 acres of Northern Highbush blueberry bushes and another 5 acres of roadways, parking, restrooms and shaded areas. The farm opened to the public in 1993, but the roots run deeper for the owners, Jim and Sue Beha.
“I grew up in Northwest West Virginia and when I was a kid my parents took us over to a pick-your-own blueberry farm in Vincent, Ohio. So I started picking blueberries from a very young age.” Jim said.
Fast forward to a couple decades later, Jim and his wife Sue, who he met while studying at Concord University, took their three children to the same blueberry farm in Ohio. There Jim noticed they had blueberry plants for sale and bought three to take back home to Flat Top. After a failed attempt to grow the plants, he thought blueberry farming in West Virginia was hopeless.
“Thankfully my dad had the wisdom to know that blueberries would grow here,” Jim said. “Our soil is perfect, our climate is perfect — everything about Flat Top Mountain is perfect for growing blueberries.”
In the summer of 1989, he planted six rows of 300 blueberry plants, gifted to him by his father. Jim soon realized that all the plants needed to flourish was proper care and attention. Those original rows (rows 60 through 65) are now some of the most productive rows in the patch!
Berry availability is not always predictable, due to fluctuating weather and demand. In order to keep customers informed, Blueberry Hill updates its “Blueberry Hotline” (304-787-3930) frequently. As of right now, it’s looking like the season will start at the beginning of July. The typical season at Blueberry Hill lasts for only four weeks.
Blueberry Hill makes taking advantage of this precious season as simple as can be. All you need to do is show up! Repeat customers show up with their dedicated buckets they use every year, but the farm offers free buckets to every guest. The buckets are lined with a plastic bag that you can take your berries home in after they are weighed.
Although the season is short, the berries are sweet! You can find sweet berries on every bush at some time during the season.
“That’s how you prolong your season. You have one variety that is ripe right now, a second variety coming on and a third coming after that,” Jim said. “At some point, you’ll have berries from every variety that are ripe at the middle of the season.”
After a berry turns blue, it takes 3 to 5 days of sunshine, chemistry and mother nature to develop its full sweetness. So if you pick a sour berry, it’s not fully ripe! According to Jim, a blueberry picking motto to go by is: “If you are picking berries that are not sweet, slow down, use a gentle touch and enjoy the moment.”
Blueberry Hill is set to open at the beginning of July. The hours for the 2021 season are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. -2 p.m., Thursdays from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Visit www.blueberryhillwv.com for the most up-to-date berry-picking information.
This post was last updated on July 1, 2021