Red, White and California Blueberries

Celebrate Independence Day with Native Blueberries

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

As we celebrate 240 years of America’s independence, we look forward to indulging in festive red, white and blue foods. One of the best ways to incorporate blue in our holiday spread is to serve plenty of California blueberries.

Mark Villata, executive director, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Mark Villata, executive director, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

Mark Villata, executive director of Folsom, California-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, explained California is an important blueberry production state as, “It is among the top five producers, nationally. We produce [blueberries] in about 38 states nationally, but nine states account for about 98 percent of our total production, and California is in that top five,” he said.

“Last year, California produced about 62 million pounds of blueberries,” Villata said; “this year’s crop looks like it could be close to 70 million pounds. Total yield has been increasing each year as new plantings come into maturity and start to produce blueberries.”

California is an important player in the berry market, and blueberries are one of the healthiest fruits consumers can eat. “Of course we’re lucky here in California to have a crop that is so readily available that is also incredibly healthy for us all,” Villata noted.

And blueberries are almost the perfect crop for celebrating the Fourth of July because they are native to the region. “Blueberries play well into any Fourth of July barbecue,” said Villata. “Blueberries are so diverse, they can be incorporated in salads, smoothies, breakfasts, desserts, and more. “We bring blue to the red, white and blue festivities,” he declared.


Blueberry Infographic on Nutrition, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council

Thank a Farmer For Your Food Independence

As you fire up the grill this Independence Day, be sure to thank a farmer, whose contributions help keep the cost of a Fourth of July feast under $6 bucks a person, according to a recent survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Considering Americans spend just 10 percent of our incomes on food – the lowest of any country – we are all indebted to the “thin green line” of only 210,000 full-time U.S. farms that produce a product that is safe, abundant and uniquely American.

These farmers are also critical to our nation’s “food independence.” This food security does not happen by accident. It is a blessing that is fostered by smart policy.

The roots of government involvement in U .S. agriculture are actually as old as the nation itself.   Government involvement began with the founding fathers of the nation and carries the fingerprints of other great Americans who followed.

In 1799, after years of colonies and states granting tracts of land to citizens encouraging people to plant crops and begin commerce, George Washington called for the establishment of the National Board of Agriculture to collect information on the nation’s agricultural inventories.

Not surprising since our first president was also quoted as saying: “It will not be doubted that with reference either to individual or national welfare, agriculture is of primary importance.”

President Abraham Lincoln then established the USDA in 1862, a department that has grown since then to include promoting agriculture trade, working to assure adequate and safe food and striving to end hunger in America and abroad.

Over the next 40 years, as the world population grows from 7 billion to 9 billion and demand for agricultural commodities doubles, we need such policies that encourage investment and constant improvement.

If done right, more nations and peoples will continue to know the happiness of a safe and reliable and affordable food supply.