By Susan Spisak
Wild blueberries are loaded with natural antioxidants, and they’re not just healthy for you – they’re safe for your dogs. They can be found at roadside stands and farmers markets now – it’s great to support locals. Once purchased, bring home and wash, then offer your pup a blue gem as a wonderful treat. Most canines will love them, and they’re a low-cal option. (Keep portion control in mind.)
According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension site (extension.umaine.edu/), there are 36,000 acres of commercial wild blueberry land in Maine, managed by 485 farmers. These farmers are dedicated to their roots and culture, respect the land, and work hard at this profession that’s often passed down in generations.
Included in the considerable number of wild blueberry producers is Josh Pond Farm, a 150-acre farm that spreads out near the northeast coast of Maine in Whiting, a region known for slow and honest cultural traditions. The Beals, Tim and Lydia, with children Nick, Jay, and Clara, care deeply about the land – they farm organically – and cultivate, operate, and manage Josh Pond Farm. The Beals represent a family of fourth generation Maine wild blueberry farmers.
The year-round farm boasts organic wild blueberries, an orchard of certified-organic apples, an underground cave of aging cheeses, a field for June strawberries, and a herd of spirited Oberhasli aka Swiss Alpine goats. Elena Beal, Brand & Sales for Josh Pond Farm and wife of Jay Beal, explained their all-year cycle: “We make aged goat milk cheese in the summer, aged cow milk cheese in the winter, and care for our wild blueberries, strawberries, and apples all year round, with a heavy focus on harvesting in the summer months.”
The star, their berries, are homegrown and hand harvested via rakes like many area farms. Never touched or washed, they are packed and frozen fresh within twenty-four hours, ensuring high-quality. They ship all their products including frozen blueberries, jams, cheeses, merchandise, and gift crates. (Visit joshpond.com.)
Elena shared that she and husband, Jay, have two male Great Pyrenees, 8-year-old Pablo and 5-year-old Pedro. The dogs have a significant role at the farm. “Our Great Pyrenees live with the goats and protect them from wild animals. The dogs and goats are extremely attached to each other, and often sleep next to one another, play with one another, and walk with each other.” The goats, which are milked for the hand batched organic cheeses, sleep in a lovely timber-framed barn, and eat organic grain and hay. The sheep and dogs have their own acreage for roaming, separate from the crops.
This job is a perfect fit for Pablo and Pedro. Great Pyrenees, as described by the AKC, are a large, thickly coated, and immensely powerful working dog bred to deter sheep-stealing wolves and other predators. Pyrs today are mellow companions and vigilant guardians of their family and home. They’re Zen-like and calm but can quickly spring into action to meet a threat. Pablo and Pedro are family favs, and have the traditional handsome white coloring, “We love our Pyrenees,” said Elena.
Wild Blueberry Recipes
Elena shared that they have plenty of recipes on their site that you’ll enjoy. Included are desserts, vinaigrettes, breads, drinks, and roasted veggies. (joshpond.com/recipes)
For a frozen pup treat, I came across this easy one on the internet. Take one large, smashed banana, mix in a quarter cup peanut butter (no xylitol). Then gently fold in a half-cup washed and dried fresh or frozen blueberries (use wild blueberries if you have). Spoon into silicone molds – tiny paws are perfect. Freeze six to eight hours or overnight.
Heidi Vanorse Neal and Joel Neal are co-owners of the Loyal Biscuit Co, an independent dog and cat supply boutique with six great Maine locations. Heidi and her Pug Kevin highlight many dog-friendly recipes on the store’s website and even have a cookbook. The duo has yummy watermelon “pupsicles” that are perfect for these hot days. They share that any fruit, including blueberries, can be subbed in. See the cute recipe card.
Maine Wild Blueberry Festivals
The 38th Wilton Blueberry Festival, Aug 5 & 6. 25 Pleasant View Heights, Wilton, ME. From live music, blueberry-flavored treats, to an assortment of vendors, there is something for the entire family to enjoy. For more: gowherewhen.com/event/wilton-blueberry-festival-2.
Wild Blueberry Weekend, Aug 6 & 7, 10 AM – 4 PM. Fields Fields Blueberries (yes, double “Fields”), 565 Blinn Hill Rd, Dresden, ME. Free. There will be craft and food vendors, even a “Magic Woods” for children’s story time. For more, unation.com/event/9611928.
Blueberry Festival & Summer Craft Fair, August 13, 9 AM – 3 PM. First Congregational Church of Kittery Point, 23 Pepperrell Road, Kittery Point, ME. Expect a wide range of exhibitors with various hand-made crafts, music, too.
The Gray Wild Blueberry Festival, Aug 13, 9 AM – 3 PM. 24 Main St, Town of Gray, Henry Pennell Municipal Complex, Gray, ME. This annual outdoor celebration makes for a great family reunion. Free music all day, food trucks, fun and games, and much more.
Machias Wild Blueberry Festival, Aug 19 – Aug 21. 9 Center St, Machias, ME. Crafts, food, entertainment, contests, and all things blueberries. (No times listed; check machiasblueberry.com/ closer to date.)