Nick Hewison picking blueberries
By Laura Joint
Blueberries on Dartmoor? It might sound unlikely, but Nick Hewison has planted his land with the soft fruit - and customers can't get enough of them!
Nick Hewison's house 600ft above sea level on Dartmoor might not seem the most obvious place to start growing blueberries.
Nick's 2.5 acres of land, high on the hill overlooking Lustleigh, used to be full of Christmas trees, which his parents would sell to locals each festive time.
Then, about 10 years ago, Nick's mother decided to plant a few blueberry bushes. That was followed by some more blueberry bushes five years ago.
Finally, in 2005, Nick and his brother Toby planted hundreds of bushes - and a little cottage industry, Yonder Berries, had begun.
The blueberries have enjoyed the wet summer!
In the summer of 2007, their labours literally bore fruit. In fact, local people couldn't get enough of the blueberries.
"I pick them in the morning and within 10 minutes, the punnets are on sale down at the village shop," said Nick. "They're gone almost as soon as they're delivered.
"The first couple of pickings are always really good - it's like nature's rich bounty.
"This summer (2007), we are producing around 100 punnets a week - it's a tiny operation at the minute.
"We take them to the village shop, and we take some to Dart's Farm near Exeter.
"So far we're staying local. We're never going to be big. We're never going to supply supermarkets, and that's the way we like it.
Nick picks around 100 punnets a week
"But we can't produce enough - there's such a demand. We came up with a crop which is unique almost, and that was my mum's idea so she takes the credit for that."
The wet summer was a disaster for other soft fruit growers in Devon, but the weather helped Nick's blueberries.
"The weather has been good for us - apart from the fact that I have got very wet! We've got enormous berries, and they're really tasty. They obviously like the warm, wet weather."
Nick and Toby have made an irrigation system, with a tank which collects rain water and pipes which take the water to the crop. No herbicides or pesticides are used.
Nick loves the idea of fresh, local food being available in village shops as it's good for local producers and other businesses.
"The 125g punnets are selling in the shop, so hopefully it's good for the shop as well. And the labels on the punnets are produced by a company in the village.
"There are no food miles with this."
Nick started picking on 12 July 2007, and the picking season continued until late August or early September. He picks first thing in the morning, twice a week.
It's not exactly rich pickings for Nick and Toby - yet.
"At the moment, we're not making any money," said Nick. "It was an investment - a pension plan really - and it involves a lot of man hours.
"In a few years' time though, myself and Toby will hopefully be able to pay ourselves."
So what's the best way to eat blueberries?
"Some people like to cook them, but I think you should eat them fresh and raw," said Nick. "They're lovely in a summer fruit salad or with your breakfast cereal. And they go well with yoghurt."
last updated: 12/03/2008 at 10:36