McConnell Berry Farm
Located 10 miles south of Morgantown WV on US Route 119,
halfway between Morgantown and Grafton WV
Telephone: 304-291-0015

On Our Farm

7/31/2016 - Final Pickings:  Monday August 1 and Saturday August 6

We have closed down the majority of our fields but our new planting of Chandler are a later variety.  These blueberries are too nice to be allowed to go to waste.  We will have two final pickings on Monday evening 4-8 and Saturday morning 8-12.  Rather than call for an appointment, send an email to bob@mcconnellberryfarm.biz  When we are filled up, I will post the notice here. 

 

 

6/29/2016 - Blueberries are ready to pick.  See below for details.

This will be your final blueberry season as we have decided to retire from blueberry farming.  We have loved having the farm and appreciate your support over the past many years.  The farm is for sale by Vickie Jenkins Realty so now is your chance if you’d like to take over!

 

The cicadas really did a number on us.  In some places loss is nearly 100%.  Other places are not so bad.  We've spent the past several days cleaning up the damage with more to be done.  As a result, picking will be spotty with some places better than others, certainly not up to our standard.  This is not how we wanted to end our blueberry career, but the cicadas are beyond our control. 

 

6/12/2016 - Well the cold weather this spring couldn't wipe us out, but the cicadas are doing a fine job.  It looks like we will lose at least 25% from cicada damage and they are not done yet.  We are starting to put the bird netting up this week.  We expect to start picking about the first of July.  Speed of ripening is very weather dependent so this projection could easily be a week off, plus or minus. 

 

5/22/2016 - With the sale of our farm in limbo, I've been reluctant to make any predictions about this year's crop.  However, the farm has not yet sold so we plan to be in business as usual this summer unless something dramatic happens soon.  With this in mind we expect to have a normal crop this year. 

 

Based on results from the last two years, we changed our pruning strategy.  We removed a large number older canes to reduce crop load in an attempt to produce larger berries.  We expect a somewhat reduced crop but the berries should be larger.  The weather played many tricks on us during late winter and spring.  Warm weather in March brought the plants out of deep dormancy causing the fruit buds to swell too early making them vulnerable to extreme cold.  We had several cold nights in April culminating in 14 degrees.  We thought the blueberries were goners, but miraculously, they survived with only spotty damage.  Then during full bloom, we had another cold spell with the temperature down to 32 degrees with a very light frost, when it was predicted to go down to upper 20's.  Dodged a bullet again.  Since then it has rained almost every day making it difficult to get much done, but so far the crop is moving nicely.  With the early bloom we expect to start picking a little earlier than usual, but the dates are weather dependent. 

 

Our blackberry crop was damaged by the cold weather but it looks like there will be some blackberries.  They are in bloom now, also a little early this year. 

 

Late April we had a heavy rain that did a lot of damage to our roads and even washed out some of the sawdust mulch in the blueberries.  The damage to the sawdust was messy but not serious.  The roads are a different matter.  A friend has brought in some heavier equipment and we are in the process of making repairs. 

 

11/22/2015 - The leaves held onto the blueberry plants longer than anticipated, until last week when I started to prune.  As there are about 2000 plants, this will take quite some time.  About 600 are less than full grown and take less time than full grown plants.  As you recall, we had a very large crop this past summer, in fact it was so large that the plants could not bring all of the berries up to size so many went to waste.  We recognized this developing situation early on and took steps to help with extra fertilization and irrigation, but were not able to fully overcome the problem.  Now that the leaves are off, it is clear that we will have to remove more material than usual during pruning and that we may end up with a smaller crop next summer.  However, we have found that fewer berries allow the plant to make the berries larger.  So we anticipate nice picking next summer. 

 

On a more positive note, I have been working in the blackberries.  I am cautiously optimistic that we will have a blackberry crop next summer because I am seeing less obvious cane blight as I prepare them for winter.  Four years ago we had a very large crop of blackberries and a smaller one the next year.  Then cane blight took over and we had virtually no crop the last two years.  Working with Dr. Raman at WVU we have found a new fungicide that seems to control the blight.  We will still have a berry mite problem that can harm the quality of the berries, but it appears the mites can be controlled with lime sulfur and oil sprays, both organic materials.  Our major blackberry crop is Triple Crown, a large berry and fairly winter hardy.  As the canes are upright and very stiff, we can no longer lay them down and cover for the winter.  They are hardy down to -10 degrees, but the last two winters we got down to -15 and -13.  The first caused severe winter damage, but the second did less damage.  We would normally expect damage only 1 in 5 years.  So the odds are pretty good for next year.  Keep your fingers crossed! 

 

10/25/2015 - I've been lax in updating our progress this fall.  In short, these last almost three months have been spent taking down the netting, doing weed control, mowing, irrigating, and putting on sawdust mulch.  We still have most of the sawdust to rake out but the blueberries are otherwise ready for winter.  The plants are starting to lose their leaves so we will start pruning in the next two weeks.  Trees around the farm have been beautiful the last three weeks and now the blueberry plants have changed color as well.  Some leaves are dark red while others are more brilliant red with some orange, depending on variety.  Once color changes, the leaves drop fairly quickly and when gone, pruning will start as then we can easily see plant structure and can tell what needs to be removed. 

 

Debby and I started this blueberry operation with the first planting in 1980, 35 years ago and have steadily increased the plantings since.  This past season was particularly trying, and since we are now in our mid-70s, we feel it is time to start cutting back.  Ideally we would like to find someone to take over the farm but if that does not occur in the near future, we will start reducing the size of the operation. 

 

8/4/2015 - We had our last picking yesterday so our blueberry season is now over.  Debby and I always enjoy visiting with all our berry picking friends and meeting new ones.  I'm convinced the nicest people in the world pick blueberries. 

 

Some people have commented that there are a lot of blueberries still on the bushes.  In some places there are still berries, but they are quite small and of poor quality

 

We have started to take the netting down.  This task takes some time but is not urgent like when the netting is put up.  We still want to get it taken down fairly quickly as it's lifetime is limited by ultraviolet exposure.  The task consists of taking down the sidewalls and putting them away for the winter.  The top nets are pushed back to the middle of the field and covered to protect them from sun exposure until next June.  Once the nets are taken care of we can get in to mow the rows and start getting the fields cleaned up.  This process will probably take about two weeks.  All the while, we will be taking care of a lot of minor maintenance tasks that were neglected during the picking season.

 

While we had a pretty good season this year, I was frustrated that we still have not reached the full potential from our plantation.  In previous years, growth, and hence production, was limited by low pH in the soil.  I finally diagnosed the problem and have been adding lime to raise the pH.  Last year we finally saw adequate growth.  However, I still pruned the bushes based on the earlier regime.  This pruning left too many canes and branches so that the bushes were overloaded with fruit.  In many plants the heavily loaded branches layered down on top of one another and were very difficult to pick causing many berries to go to waste.  In other cases the bushes were so overloaded that they could not bring the berries up to size.  I recognized the potential berry size problem in early spring so I put on a good helping of nitrogen fertilizer and ran the irrigation all through the dry weather in May and early June.  Had I not gone to these measures, we probably would have been faced with even more small berries.  With all the fertilizer and water we did get good growth for next year's crop.  I will have to change the way I prune this winter and remove even more canes than I did last winter.  Hopefully we can get closer to the optimum trade-off between berry size and number of berries. 

 

Blueberries   U-Pick by appointment: 304-291-0015

We will have a small crop this year due to severe cicada damage. 

 

Blueberries will be $2.50 per pound, containers furnished.

 

To make an appt., call 304 291 0015.  If the machine answers, be ready to give the day you want to pick, your name, phone number, and number of pickers in your party.  Because we have a small crop, we cannot take large groups of pickers this year. 

Please do not try to make appointments by email.

 

Hours:  Monday and Saturday:  8 amNoon;  

               Tuesday and Thursday:  4 – 8 pm

 

 

 

    Recipes       Blueberry recipes, health and nutrition
                                                     information 

    Apples          Summer apples, mid July-early August

Apples are gone for this year

 

    Bee Plus     Pollination supplies and services for Osmia
                                                    mason bees, a safe and super-pollinating
                                                                             pollen bee for spring flowering fruit
 

Contact Us: Debby McConnell , Bob McConnell