Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Not-So-Local Blackberry Situation

Growing up, blackberries meant summer to me. In Delaware they grew wild, like weeds all over everything, rambling across every fence rail, covering the backsides of old barns and tangling themselves into walls of briar, veiled in spider webs. As a teenager I'd pick them and sell them on the side of the road in brown paper lunch bags and another summer I visited Vermont and filled pail after pail with the dark, tart jewels. Imagine how excited I was to find blackberries from a Florida farm. Sunnyridge Farm, located in Winter Haven, fit my definition of local and I had no idea that blackberries grew in a tropical climate. I looked it up and apparently there are several varieties of the berries which do just fine here and even better in North Florida. Ok, I thought. This is fantastic. I can have my summer blackberry fix! I was so excited that I went to Sunnyridge's products page. I wanted to learn more so that I could write about Florida blackberries. Well, I was in for a major disappointment. I had been mislead by the packaging which said nothing more than the "farm"'s name and location. Most people would assume that berries labeled with the name of a farm came from that farm, right? Of course, and that's exactly what the packaging misleads one to believe. Most people wouldn't go that extra step like I did and look up the website, which is very clear and honest about the origins of its berries. Sunnyridge farms may very well grow some blueberries and strawberries, but it looks like it's more of a berry distributor than an actual "farm" which is really sad, because the name Sunnyridge Farm brings to mind an idyllic scene. Turns out these blackberries were probably shipped from Georgia, repackaged to make it look like they came from a "farm" in Florida and sold in grocery stores where people like me, who make an effort to buy local products end up deceived. I was really disappointed and this experience got me thinking about how many other products use subtle, misleading tactics to trick consumers into purchasing something they think comes from nearby. In other posts I've already complained about the fake "homemade" jams and jellies sold at farmer's markets, and I've lamented "farmer's markets" which ship in produce from as far as whole other countries and are nothing more than the produce section of a grocery store, just outside. None of these businesses are outright lying, but to me, this constitutes lying by omission and they're getting away with it. Had I known that these berries were from another state, I wouldn't have bought them. But I had bought them and now I had several pints that I couldn't waste. I had to make this a positive, non-wasteful experience. It was time to turn non-local blackberries into blackberry mush.


  1. Aww. I'm sorry. I'm not sure this would work, but maybe you could use some of the blackberries to grow blackberries in your yard?

  2. How beautifully written. I also enjoyed reading the Blackberry mush recipe. It sounds yummy.