The Blueberry Years by Jim Minick

the blueberry years

There’s a healthy amount of idealism in Jim and his wife’s dreams of owning a blueberry farm. They are both teachers and they are burnt out by the time they decide to buy a plot in the mountains of Virginia to start their own organic blueberry farm. They eventually want a farm that will be profitable and also give them the time they want to pursue their creative endeavors. Jim has some experience with growing blueberries, since his family owns a blueberry farm in Pennsylvania  So they buy a small piece of property (which looks nothing like the farm on the cover!) and begin planting their blueberry plants that will eventually start producing in the coming years.

I really enjoyed The Blueberry Years. It’s set up in a series of vignettes that are arranged more or less chronologically. Each chapter is very short, sometimes only a page or two, and usually around three to four pages. This made the reading go by very fast, but I also liked the way each chapter was like a snapshot of the Minnick blueberry farm. You could tell that Jim and Sarah loved their little blueberry farm, but you also know from the beginning that they are eventually going to leave it. Watching the process from heady idealism, to the growth of the farm, to the somewhat-success of the farm, to their eventual decision to leave the farm painted a complete picture of what it might actually be like to take something like this on.

While this is even less of a how-to than Animal Vegetable Miracle, one of the things that bothered me about Kingsolver’s book is the lack of practical application of what she was doing and the lack of information about what Kingsolver and her family did after they finished the book. The Blueberry Years is a memoir, with some history and science about blueberries thrown in, and it’s certainly not a how-to-start-an-organic blueberry farm book, but it felt so much more realistic. Jim and Sarah were average people with some farming experience, but no professional farming experience, and they built their blueberry farm from the ground up.

Minick is a lovely writer. The Blueberry Years is written in a conversational style and it feels like you are going through a photo album and Jim is sitting next to you explaining what’s in each photo. Like any good nonfiction book, I had a lot of facts to share about blueberries to anyone who would listen. It made me crave a big, huge crate of blueberries to freeze and I can’t wait for them to be available in farm stands. Like Animal Vegetable Miracle, this book made me miss Virginia.

I think what I got the most out of The Blueberry Years is that I really want a blueberry bush and I can’t wait until I have a yard to grow one in. I read this book as a part of Debi’s year of themed reading, with March focusing on gardening books. Of the four I read, I think this was my favorite and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for whatever Minick writes in the future.

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