RIVERTON TWP — “It’s the greatest pick I’ve ever had,” said Diane Vandezande, a blueberry picker on Friday morning.
Vandezande brought her family, including 6 grandkids, to the Pentwater Patch.
“The quality is great and quantity is wonderful,” she said. “They are doing an excellent job with this patch.”
The Pentwater Patch, a u-pick blueberry patch between Ludington and Pentwater, has had a busier than usual season so far this summer.
“It’s been crazy busy. It’s just incredible,” Dan TeBos said.
Dan and Jill TeBos have run the patch with their sons, Jake, Max and Gabe, for six years.
“I think people want to get outside. They’ve been inside and they want to come pick fresh (berries) that haven’t been touched by anyone else,” Jake said.
Jill said the weather has been great for picking lately. It was sunny with a few clouds Friday.
“That really helps, too. It’s beautiful outside. People want to pick their own berries. It’s safe and you can stay with your own group. We are really blessed that we can be open,” she said.
When people walked up to the stand, they picked up disinfected ropes and buckets lined with new bags then headed to the berry bushes.
Dan directed them down the rows so they were separated from other groups.
“It’s a socially-distanced, safe outdoor activity,” he said. “The bushes are 6 feet apart. The rows are 10 feet apart. As people go, they are staggered. You can be in your own little group with your own family.”
Dan said they are utilizing the front and back of the 15-acre patch to make sure people can stay far enough apart.
Barb Boyce, from Grand Haven, and local Jeanne Bentley started picking at 9:30 a.m.
“I usually come a couple times every year,” Bentley said. “(The crop) was superb this year.”
Karen and Jeff Jones were there with their grandsons Connor and Cooper Diekemper from Carlyle, Ill. They were heading into the patch at 11 a.m. and hoping to pick a bucket and a half.
“I was looking for orchards or places to pick online and found it,” Karen said.
The patch opened on Thursday, July 23, with the blueberries a few days behind schedule, Dan said.
“It’s all weather dependent,” he said.
It’s a Michigan Department of Agriculture certified environmentally-friendly farm.
“Our biggest thing is priding ourselves on focusing on the environment, especially our soil health. Our plants are benefiting from that tremendously,” said Jake, who is the head grower. “Precision agriculture is what we strive for.”
The TeBos family owns a greenhouse in Allendale where they grow mums.
They have been coming to the area since their sons were young, Dan said.
“Steve Hayes ran the farm for years,” Jake said. “We live up here in the summer. Blueberries are a fun transition for us to do something different, but still in our agriculture wheelhouse.”
It’s a family tradition to pick their own berries, Ben Vanderkodde said. He brought two of his kids on Friday.
“We love fresh blueberries,” he said. “We use them in smoothies and blueberry cobbler. We make blueberry pancakes. We love the Pentwater Patch. They do a fantastic job of serving us. One of the girls at the dinner table earlier this week said, ‘I can’t wait to go picking.’
“We were really surprised this year by how many people were getting out and enjoying it. We came last Saturday as well and they had to close a couple days to let berries ripen.”
When people were finished picking, they took their buckets to the tent where Jill tied them behind a table-top shield.
“We have lines drawn on the ground (at the check-out). We put up the shields. We have hand sanitizer available. We sanitize every bucket,” Dan said.
The u-pick berries are $13 per bucket, or about 7 1/2 pounds. Berries are also ready to purchase for $22 per bucket.
The patch is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 6870 S. Brye Road, Ludington.