We’re pleased as blueberry punch to report that our own Wally Hazen and Hazen’s Riverside Blueberries U-Pick Farm was featured in an article in this morning’s edition of “The World” newspaper out of Coos Bay.
Here’s a re-post of the article:
FAIRVIEW — Beneath the glaring mid-day sun Wednesday afternoon, Wally Hazen watched as dozens of pickers wandered through rows of blueberries on his Coquille Valley farm.
“We’re running about 7,200 plants between both fields,” he said. Two nearby women dumped freshly-picked berries into already overflowing buckets.
The pickers at Hazen’s farm Wednesday weren’t employees. They’re his best customers. Eleven years ago, Hazen and his wife reinvented the farm as a retail business in the U-pick model, where customers are responsible for picking and transporting their own berries.
Hazen, who has operated grocery stores on the South Coast for years, said the idea began when the couple were looking for country property. They settled on a berry farm, located seven miles east of Coquille, near Fairview.
“The previous people weren’t marketing the berries,” Hazen said. “They were taking them to a processor in Salem.”
While the lower field is reserved for commercial sale production, U-pick customers are free to roam the upper fields and fill their buckets with all the berries they can use.
The damage? A mere $1.65 a pound.
Mary Tschetter, one of the pickers at the farm Wednesday, said the she looks forward to the season as a way to stock up on fruit.
“I picked more than 100 pounds last year,” she said. “I freeze enough so I have enough for the whole year.”
Hazen said he and his wife have primarily selected blueberry varieties that make good eating and U-pick berries, rather than thick-skinned varieties often found on grocery store shelves.
Many of the their current plants have been on the property for years. “For the most part, berries are 28 to 30 years old — the bushes are,” he said. “My wife and I prune them each winter.”
While western Oregon is renowned for its Pinot noir grapes, the seasoned grocer said they aren’t the only fruit in the region gaining international acclaim
“We’ve got nine farms [in the region] now selling to South Korea,” he said.
Despite the distribution opportunities, the couple continues to concentrate on their U-pick business, which draws between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors each season.
“Some times I toy with the idea of making a bigger operation,” Hazen said. “Then I think, ‘Gah! I’m getting too old for this!’”
Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty