'Pandemic or no pandemic'

Jersey blueberry harvest must go on

In an interview with njmonthly.com, Art Galletta of Hammonton's Atlantic Blueberry Co. discussed how the Garden State's blueberry industry is adapting to a new normal.

"New Jersey is proud of our tomatoes, our corn, even our cranberries, but did you know we were once home to the largest blueberry farm in the world?  Technically speaking, Atlantic Blueberry Co. in Hammonton became the “largest highbush blueberry farm in the world” in 1979, when the farm acquired another property and rocketed up to 1,320 acres."

The title has since expired, but Atlantic Blueberry is still going strong. Founded in 1935, it’s still run by the same family—the Gallettas, an Italian family that came to America at the turn of the century and began farming blueberries and cranberries under a company called the Atlantic Company for the Culture of Cranberries. Two Galletta brothers—Duke and Bill—fell for the blueberry part of the cranberry operation, bought their own land in 1935, and began cultivating wild New Jersey blueberries for themselves. By 1949, they were able to buy that first farm out. Duke even has a blueberry variety named after him. “The USDA honored him by naming the variety after him,” says his son and current company president, Art Galletta.

Yet no matter how long they’ve been around (as part of a co-op, they’re sold under the Naturipe banner), it’s fair to say Atlantic Blueberry Co. has never seen an era quite like this one. And as the mid-June blueberry harvest approaches, and the company considers the logistics of employing close to 500 hand-harvesters, they’re facing questions of how to effectively, safely salvage New Jersey blueberries in the era of Covid-19.

Click here to read the full interview.

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