115: Susan and Harley Soltes of Bow Hill Blueberries on Organic Berry Production and Adding Value to Products, Farm, and People
Susan and Harley Soltes of Bow Hill Blueberries raise five acres of high-bush blueberries on the northern edge of the Skagit River Valley in western Washington. Susan and Harley bought the oldest blueberry farm in Skagit County in 2011, transitioned the farm to organic, and launched a new line of value-added products along with their fresh and frozen berries. 

Harley shares the details of organic blueberry production, from weed control and management of mummy berry and spotted wing drosophila through the GAP-certified harvest that provides access to institutional markets. Bow Hill’s blueberry bushes were mostly planted in the 1940s, which provides a great marketing opportunity – heirlooms! – but also presents challenges when it comes to keeping the harvest crew happy, and Harley and Susan dig deep into how they work with their labor crew to maximize the harvest and keep worker satisfaction high

Susan walks us through how they market their fresh and frozen berries to institutions including Microsoft’s food service and the Seattle Seahawks, as well how they created their unique line of value-added products, and how they have established a differentiated presence in the marketplace, even though Washington State is the United States’ largest producer of organic blueberries.

We also discuss how Bow Hill has developed and enhanced their u-pick market and on-farm sales, as well as how they’ve turned purslane to their advantage.

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