Ask any of the vendors at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market this summer, and they’ll tell you that there’s a local food movement taking place, the likes of which haven’t been seen since…well, people had to farm their own food to survive. And it doesn’t get any more local than picking your own produce. Just ask JoAnn and Chuck Fetter, Owners of Star Farm Blueberries in Galway—about a 20-minute drive from Downtown Saratoga Springs—which held its grand opening earlier this month.
Star Farm Blueberries may just be a few weeks old, but it’s already starting to see its share of foot traffic. “A mother, her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend came out on our opening day,” says Chuck. “The boyfriend walks in, and he wasn’t really smiling—you could tell he was kinda doing it to be the good boyfriend. We’ve got a little bowl of blueberries on the table, and we say, ‘Here, try the blueberries before you go pick.’ So he’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know, I don’t really like blueberries.’ I go, ‘Look, just try a couple and see what you think.’ He starts eating them and goes, “These are good! They’re not hard! His face lights up, he goes out to pick and he’s all smiles.” Co-owner JoAnn jumps in: “His first response was, ‘These are not at all like the market!’”
The idea for Star Farm Blueberries came to Chuck in 2013 while mowing his five-acre field for the gazillionth time in the 20 years he’s lived on the property. “I thought, why not farm it?” he says. Chuck talked to a local farmer who gave him this advice: Grow something that not everyone else grows. And then, under his breath, the farmer muttered “blueberries,” as if it were some sort of secret. “A lightbulb went off because JoAnn and I like blueberries, and I thought, ‘Why not grow something we like to eat?’” Chuck says.
Since then, Chuck and JoAnn have been devoted to their vision for Star Farm, doing most of the work themselves. “JoAnn learned how to operate the turbo-powered, 43 horsepower, four-wheel drive hydrostatic John Deere tractor,” Chuck says. “She took right to it and has been the best farm help I’ve ever had.” For three years, the couple prepped the field, doing all the heavy-lifting themselves. They installed 1,000 feet of drainage tile, picked thousands of rocks out of the field, mixed 300 cubic yards of sand with a tractor trailer load of peat moss, built raised beds for the bushes and even put in a pond-fed drip irrigation system. All in the name of their vision.
Finally, in 2016, it was time to plant the blueberry bushes, or what JoAnn fondly calls their “blue-babies.” In mid-spring, 2,817 bushes arrived from Michigan, and in one day—with the help of a handful of friends—they planted them all. Since then, the bushes have been producing berries, but Chuck and JoAnn picked the berries early in the season to help promote bush growth. This year, though, “they’re immaculate,” JoAnn says.
Interested in doing some blueberry picking of your own this weekend? Star Farm Blueberries is open Fridays from 10am-3pm and weekends 9am-5pm. Check the farm’s Facebook page for updates and weather-related closings.