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September 11, 2017

Blueberry growers ramp up 'wild' marketing

Photo / Lori Valigra
Photo / Lori Valigra
Maine's wild blueberry industry, which faces competitive challenges from cultivated blueberries as well as a steep decline in the price paid to growers, is launching a marketing effort to differentiate Maine's wild blueberries from cultivated blueberries grown elsewhere.

Marie and Dell Emerson, who manage Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls and sell wild blueberries out of a blueberry-shaped retail shop on Route 1, are developing a marketing push to differentiate Maine's wild blueberries from cultivated berries grown elsewhere.

The Ellsworth American reported the couple started a nonprofit museum focused on the industry to help educate blueberry buyers about the product. The museum will have a website designed to educate the public about the benefits of wild blueberries. The project is still in development.

"We need to differentiate between these high-bush cultivated berries and our special wild ones," Marie Emerson told the paper. The online component is expected to help the marketing push.

"That's going to help with marketing — people can click on and drill down and learn about blueberries," she said.

They've secured a private donation for the project and have been working with volunteer students and faculty from the University of Maine. She said they hope to break ground on the building in the spring.

This year's blueberry crop has been smaller due to bad weather and financial issues. David Yarborough, blueberry specialist with the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension, told the newspaper that a reduction in oversupply could improve pricing in 2018.

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