We are Josh & Dan Benson. Two Dorset brothers who run the the oldest blueberry plantation in the UK.
We run it as a Pick Your Own Farm and are very proud to have our Soil Association Organic status.
The Blueberry Field and neighbouring Camellia Nursery have been around for a long time and seen many years together. However it is since January 2018 that Josh & Dan have teamed up to bring it up to speed with the present day and add some new life and character to the space in order for it to thrive once more.
The background story as to how the Blueberry Field came about it is this:
The Blueberries you will be picking were planted in 1964 by the late David Trehane. His first blueberries were planted in 1951, 80 plants which came from the delightfully named Lulu Island in British Columbia. They were offered free of charge to any grower who was prepared to trial them to see how ‘high bush’ blueberries would perform in this country. They didn’t just grow but thrived in our sandy, acidic Dorset heathland soil, so in 1957 David took the plunge and planted a whole acre, about 1000 plants. The fact that David was the only UK grower to see the potential and then to plant blueberries commercially is a tribute to his great talent as a horticultural innovator and pioneer. He also set up the camellia nursery in the 1950’s, introducing many varieties to British gardens.
When David moved in 1969 to the homeland of Cornwall the blueberry and camellia businesses grew and flourished under the different managements in the form of his son Jeremy, daughter Jennifer and her son David Jnr. Nowadays the land is owned by Jeremy Trehane but the Blueberry PYO business has been handed on to Josh & Dan Benson.
Josh is the main man on the blueberry front and has been actively involved with all aspects of the business for 17 years and is ideally placed to continue the established growing philosophy while bringing exciting and new ideas to the party.
NOW GROWING CUT-FLOWERS TOO!
In order to extend our season we have set about growing cut-flowers for sale in our new flower barn – Brothers Farm Flowers!
Have a look… 🙂
There are eight different varieties in the plantation. These were the best and latest varieties in 1964 when they were planted. Now only one of these, ‘Bluecrop’ is still widely available in the shops. As the supermarkets have come to dominate the trade most of the other varieties have been rejected on grounds of firmness, uniformity, shelf life or shape. As a result we, and you are left with some of the tastiest, most characterful and distinctive blueberries to be found anywhere! There are varieties to suit every taste as one thing we’ve learned over the years is everyone’s tastes buds are different!
The first variety to ripen, EARLIBLUE, is a good example as some folks find it a bit bland, others can’t get enough of its sweetness. Then you have the soft, sweet COLLINS, pale blue and delicate flavours of the BERKELEY, rich dark and intense IVANHOE, spicy perfumed COVILLE and the luscious HERBERT, described by one ‘celebrity’ chef while filming here for the BBC as the ‘champagne blueberry’!
Our regular customers know which variety they want and pick enough to top up their freezers for the winter as they freeze perfectly and take no time at all to defrost. That way they can have Dorset Blueberries on their porridge all year round…… yum!!
The PYO Blueberries have been grown organically their whole lives and from November 2018 we will now be able to say we are officially organic!
We are very proud to say this and it is hard earned for sure. The field was originally planted and looked after by hand and it still is today – the rows are planted really quite close together and so we cant even get a small ride on mower through there!
Josh hand prunes each and every plant at the turn of the year which usually takes around 2 months and then its on to the field management, grass cutting, netting, disease monitoring and care and so on until harvest time at the start of July.
Every season is different and each year there are new challenges to be faced but so far so good and we will keep on as long as we can keep these amazing plants going!