Friday, September 17, 2010

Jim Minick's "The Blueberry Years"

Jim Minick grew up eating blueberries, and for eight years he and his wife owned and operated Minick Berry Farm, a certified-organic, pick-your-own blueberry farm in Floyd County, VA.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family, and reported the following:
The Blueberry Years tells the story of my wife and me creating and operating one of the first certified-organic blueberry farms in the mid-Atlantic. And the Page 99 Test captures this decade-long struggle by focusing on one small part of it—getting certified. In the first 98 pages, we’ve cleared an abandoned field of bull pine, then planted, watered, and mulched 1000 blueberry bushes, and now we are about to open the pick-your-own operation to the public.

But first, we have to get “Certified,” which is also the title of Chapter 18 which starts on page 99. Here we meet Janey, the organic inspector who doesn’t like dogs (we have 2 hyper mutts), and, as her visit to our farm progresses, we realize she obviously doesn’t know diddly about blueberries. So we pen the dogs, shackle our tongues, and sit on our hands as Janey peruses our records, clicks her own tongue, and pretends she understands. Later she “inspects” our sheds and piles of organically-approved fertilizer, and then visits the blueberry field where she insists that we dig and dig until we find an earthworm. I’m not sure we would’ve passed the certification test if we hadn’t finally found one, wiggly sun-stunned worm.

So the Page 99 Test captures much—our struggles to create a farm, our desire to do it “right,” meaning organically, and then our realization of how that “right” is also very flawed. We do get certified, and we do open the field to hundreds of pickers who come every year. Among them is Janey who comes back to pick and fill her own freezer. When we see her pull up, we hide the shovels and warn the worms. Then, after she leaves, we release our two dogs and watch as they cruise the field, sniffing for blueberries among the lowest branches. Like Janey, like all of our pickers, and like us, these four-legged companions search among the green leaves for this beautiful fruit. Like all of us, they too have come to love the sweet taste of a blueberry.
Read an excerpt from The Blueberry Years, and learn more about the book and author at Jim Minick's website.

Writers Read: Jim Minick.

--Marshal Zeringue