Andy and Deonne Myrick have worked hard over the past few years to transform a hilly wooded lot into a pick-your-own blueberry patch that will operate under the name Fish Hill Farm. They avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides and their children join in with the picking and selling. I first made a trip up in late spring to catch the blossoming bushes and then recently made a return trip to see some harvesting and maintenance as well as some of the work being done to add more bushes.
B (Ben): Your names?
A (Andy): Andy Myrick
D (Deonne): Deonne Myrick
B: The town that you live in?
A: Randolph, Vermont.
B: Are you small farmers or avid gardeners?
A: We're both.
D: Yeah, I think we're both. We started with flower and vegetable gardening and that grew crazy big and I guess we are becoming blueberry farmers - we're starting to take on the role. If you you asked my cousins in New Jersey they think I'm a farmer...
A: ...and if you ask my cousins in North Danville they think we're avid gardeners.
D: Exactly, it all depends on your perspective. B: When and what got you into avid gardening/farming?
A: Its in my blood, my father grew up on a peanut & watermelon farm and he and my mom practiced subsistence farming.
D: We didn't really do much gardening until we moved to Duxbury and we gardened a little with our old neighbors and then we started our own little garden. When we moved here we were able to create a lot more space.
A: Acquisition of land...I was in Future Farmers of America in high school and everything was arigiculture based, but until we had space...
D: I didn't have much background in gardening, my mom did some flower gardening - we didn't really grow vegetables, but we would go strawberry picking, blueberry picking, apple orchards....when we bought our first house in 94' we started doing flower beds and landscaping because the small cape had no landscaping, but I learned a lot from our neighbors and they shared a lot of plants with me. My first year of me doing any vegetable gardening she said why don't you just come help me so I learned how to weed lettuce, thin carrots, that kind of thing by working alongside of her and then we put in a garden that was not even as big as our kitchen floor (150 square feet perhaps) and we packed a ton of stuff into that, but that was our first garden and when we moved here he (Andy) built raised beds for me and it kept expanding from there - sometimes I joke it is out of control, there is always something to do, but it is fun. B: What do you enjoy most about gardening/farming?
D: The peace and tranquility, being out there working when I have the time to do it, but I like the magic of - you start and it is soil and it is nothing and then you put in seeds and it grows - it seems like it comes from nothing.
B: I like that answer - magic!
D: I say that a lot when we plant the seeds. I say let the magic begin because you wait and you wait and then all of a sudden things start to grow - we'll go away for a couple days and you come back and its taken off - what do you enjoy (Andy)?
A: It's movement therapy and I like that part of it, but it is also important to give the kids a concept of where food comes from and there is a whole bunch that goes with that - food security issues, knowing where our stuff comes from, and not having to rely on other people - those are big issues for me.
D: It also feels really awesome - the other morning I went out and harvested a couple onions, a couple carrots, a couple cucumbers, a few beets, this and that and it was great - that was ten minutes in the garden and I didn't have to run to the grocery store and it all came right from here - that intrinsic value of knowing you did it yourself. B: Tell me about the food you have picked for this project?
A: Blueberries. This is our fifth year, we started with woods and we now have blueberry bushes that are producing and we have people coming here to pick their own.
D: We have over 100 bushes now.
A: It has been a big learning process - learning about soil sciences, different varieties, pest management...
D: It is a great way to get antioxidants in our kids and they eat them non-stop so it feels good that they are chowing down on that.
A: They are easy to keep and stretch through the rest of the year too.
D: They are simple to freeze, we do make jam, but most we freeze - we use them in muffins, pancakes, smoothies - it cuts down on our grocery bill a lot.
B: What were the varieties you have?
A: We have Patriots, Northlands, Nelsons, and Jerseys - all high bush domesticated varieties. B: How and when do you harvest?
A: We start the early picking on our own and then we are bringing in friends and customers to pick in the middle and then we'll do the clean up work (picking the berries they missed) on a regular basis which will be for our use.
D: It is usually mid to late July when we can start picking the berries and we can get in a good three to four weeks of picking.
A: The Nelson and Jersey varieties could help stretch our season out to four or five weeks.
B: How do you like to eat the blueberries and do you have any favorite recipes?
A: That pretty much covers it right there (daughter eats handful of blueberries right from the bowl), Skoka blueberry pie - raw blueberries
D: It is a fresh blueberry pie - you take a small amount of berries and you cook them down with sugar and lemon rind then you chill it so it sets then you mix it with fresh berries and put it in a rich pie crust (in that it is made with butter and egg) and then you let the whole thing set and it is amazing.
A: Muffins - the frozen berries taste fresh and the heat brings out a lot of flavor.
D: I searched for lets say 25 years for a really good blueberry muffin recipe and finally found the one that I'm satisfied with!
A: We make smoothies, sometimes straight blueberry smoothies
D: We made it almost to May (with the frozen berries) before we ran out of berries this year.
A: 40 plus pounds, we'll have more this year - production has doubled in the last three years.
D: Last year was the first year we didn't pick berries anywhere else. B: Anything else you want to share?
A: It (growing blueberries) is a battle against the elements, and the wildlife, and the pests, but it is a winnable battle.
D: One of the things I enjoy is sharing and it is hard for me with transitioning from gardeners to farmers with blueberries to charge my friends!
A: I think they understand how much effort we are putting into this.
D: No one has a qualms with paying, but it is a hard thing to go from just sharing to making it somewhat profitable. I feel really grateful to the people that are so excited to come up here and pick, the handful of people who have come up so far - I have really felt that and I feel psyched that they are wanting to support our business and many have expressed that to us and it feels good knowing that.
To find out more about Andy & Deonne Myrick and Fish Hill Farm click on the link below (the link does not currently work, but check again soon):
Fish Hill Farm: https://www.facebook.com/fishhillfarm
To find out more about this project click HERE.