Story by Lynne Bertrand | Cover photo by Georgia Teensma
NOTE: The U-Pick information in our issue was incorrect - it has been updated below to reflect that Benson Place is open for U-pick on Saturday and Sunday once the season opens, with weekday picking available by appointment.
On a Saturday morning in the dog days of summer, you can drive to the intersection of Middle and Nowhere, otherwise known as Heath, then hang a right up a dirt road through the forest till the way dead-ends at a rugged, windswept farm. This is the Benson Place. Mt. Greylock is visible from here, 25 miles to the west; so is the Du Bois Library tower, 40 miles southeast at UMass. The view is well worth the drive, but it’s not everything. This is a nearly 35-acre low-bush blueberry barren, with thousands of perfect indigo spheres ripening in sweet profusion as far as the eye can see. Even black bears, the true hipster foodies of the fowrest, come from as far away as Conway to PYO blues.
This place was known by early settlers as Burnt Mountain. The native nations who lived in these hills learned from their cousins in the future state of Maine to set fire to sections of wild blueberries in the spring. This kept the plants in rotation, with infinite production. Meredith Wecker and Andrew Kurowski, who own and manage this barren now, continue that practice. Upwards of 15 tons of blueberries will come off this mountain by the second week in August. In about an hour of leisurely raking with hand-held, comb-edged scoops, 20 pounds of them can be yours.
Blueberry season in Heath is typically the third week of July through the second week of August. Open u-picking is offered on Saturdays and Sundays; with arrival between 9am and 2pm. In high season there will be a wait to run your harvest through the winnowing machine, which sorts off the leaves and twigs. Pre-orders for blueberries and reservations for weekday U-pick slots may be made online from July 1. Prices are listed online as well. Several coop markets are carrying Benson’s certified organic blues this summer, and berries will be available at drop-off locations around the Valley.
For picking and ordering information, and detailed driving directions visit BensonPlace.org
Lynne Bertrand is a freelance writer who lives in Williamsburg. Georgia Teensma is a freelance photographer and a second-year student at Hampshire College.