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Changing economy

Q: How are current economic conditions affecting you?

Lindholm: This year [2008] was my biggest year yet in terms of farm sales. Though we’re in a recession, I don’t feel like people have turned away from my produce. I’ve still got the quality and the reputation, and as we were just talking about, it’s in the limelight of popular culture right now to eat local, eat organic and support small farmers.

I don’t know if it’s my heyday or not, but I hope it will continue to grow. It keeps getting better year after year.

We’re working on a business plan to start an organic blueberry processing plant — basically to get big with blueberries, to be able to not just do fresh, but also frozen and wholesale and develop new markets. And actually have frozen blueberries to sell to Bates and whoever else.

For probably five years, my wife and I have been scratching our heads, wondering how to get bigger with the blueberries, because we see the demand. It finally dawned on me that it wouldn’t be making the farm bigger — instead, I’d really have to step away from the farm and look at this as a whole separate business venture.

That’s how I’m pursuing it. It feels good. It’s not just me trying to swim through the world of getting the farm bigger. There’s going to be more a blueberry processing facility and I’m going to be marketing organic blueberries on a larger scale. We own about six acres of blueberry ground here and about 10 acres that we managed just this summer, and another 10 acres that this woman just got certified organic that she let us harvest from. So right there’s already about 25 acres. There have probably been two or three people per year over the past five years who have come up to us at the farmers market, “Oh, I’ve got this 10-acre field, oh, I’ve got this 20-acre field, I’ve got this 40-acre field. Would you like to manage it organically for us?”

If there’s available acreage in this area, I’m looking at starting at 50 to 100 acres of wild blueberries.

In this area, that’s highly developable land and very endangered agricultural land — it’s open ground and it’s easily built on. This will be a good way of preserving open farmland in the area. The non-organic blueberry industry in this area is suffering. They can’t get the returns. The fields are very hilly and can’t be mechanized like they can up in Washington County. Labor is becoming harder and harder.

Q: Would you cut back on the vegetable operation?

Lindholm: That’s a good question. The nice thing with blueberries is that is still intensive in the four- or six-week harvest window, but outside of that, and certainly with a crew, it’s something I wouldn’t have to be as intensively involved with. I would still want to do the vegetables — we have the farm, we have the soil for it. I’ve been building that soil up now for 12 years. I wouldn’t want to just abandon it.