juicy blackberries and delicately tart raspberries carefully gathered and distributed along with the blueberries through North Bay Produce, in Traverse City, Michigan. North Bay’s berries are grown on farms in the U.S. and eight countries in Central and South America. The various locations allow fresh produce to ripen at different times, extending the growing season and the supply of ready-to-pick produce. At the Leduc farm, 500 of the 1,000 acres are devoted to blueberries, and things are just now turning especially sweet. Blueberries are entering prime picking time. The fruit grows on six- to eight-foot bushes and is harvested by machine and by hand up to three times each summer. It takes Joe, his wife, Chantal, and a crew of 20 to harvest berries for delivery to North Bay Produce and to a Fresh Thyme near you. Though some regions of Michigan face harsh winters, Lake Michigan creates a temperate lake-effect zone of slightly warmer weather, especially across the southwest corner. This region—a lush fruit belt of peaches, cherries, berries, and other produce—is one of the few L E D U C B L U E B E R R I E S Located in: Paw Paw, Michigan Started in: 1955 Major crops: Blueberries and strawberries Claim to fame: Michigan is the blueberry production capital of North America and grows more than 30 blueberry varieties. places on earth where wild blueberries grow naturally. Blueberries find the climate and acidic soils irresistible, and they ripen full of natural sugary sweet flavor. The state of Michigan, in fact, is torn whether to name the blueberry or the cherry as its state fruit. It leads the nation in tart cherry production—but also in blueberries. “This is the best place in the world for blueberry farms,” says Ryan Lockman, the berry category manager at North Bay Produce. Joe agrees. “How beautiful is the farm? It’s green. It’s flush. It’s well-manicured,” Joe says. “I think it’s gorgeous.” As good as blueberries already are, things may even get better. Researchers continue to look at bigger, better blueberries, longer shelf life, and increased sweetness. But for now, it’s simply the season to sit back and enjoy them. places on earth where wild blueberries grow naturally. Blueberries find the OUR DIETITIAN’S DISH: Nutritional superstars, blueberries are unlike any other food. A cup of these berries contains just 80 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and even more antioxidants than almost any other food! —Kerry Clifford, MS, RD, LDN Fresh Thyme Registered Dietitian freshthyme.com | July/August 2017 5 004-005 Farm to Fork.indd 5 6/13/17 8:29 AM