The wild blueberry is unlike any other food. Grown by both Native and Maine farmers, it’s the only wild fruit that is cultivated by humans. Wild blueberries often top lists of superfoods thanks to their capacity to reduce the risk of heart disease, oxidative stress, and joint and muscle pains. And now a new nonprofit aims to celebrate and support the berry and the people who tend to it.
For the past year, Still Water co-director Joline Blais has been president of the Wild Blueberry Heritage Center, headquartered in a physical museum in Columbia Falls and online at WildBlueberryHeritageCenter.org. The museum is an extension of the Wild Blueberry Lands project created by Marie and Dell Emerson, blueberry farmers who erected an eye-catching giant blue dome in downeast Maine to this humble fruit.
In the past year Blais and the Emersons have been joined by a community of farmers, patrons, and interns to bring this rural landmark into the 21st century. AmeriCorps VISTA member Kaysie Logan and Island Institute intern Katie Liberman helped overhaul the structure and build connections to small farmers in the surrounding towns, while a board of directors worked with Blais and Marie to envision an expansive future for this grassroots nonprofit.
- Welcoming over 15,000 visitors over the summer and employing five local community members;
- Developing and enhancing eleven educational and cultural exhibits focusing on wild blueberry heritage and ecology.
- Collaborating with Beals Elementary 3rd-6th grade students to bridge art and place-basing education with the creation of a student-built exhibit, entitling Seasons of the Barrens.
- Inducting two new members to the Maine Wild Blueberry Hall of Honor
- Supporting a local youth Media & Communications Intern, helping to grow the center’s online following by 60 percent.
- Soliciting over 1,200 volunteer hours to complete phase one of a Interpretive Walkway & Pollinator Garden. This included building a pavilion, creating two outdoor exhibits, preparing the ground for future exhibits, installing interactive areas, expanding the walkways, and transplanting wild blueberries.
Combining these accomplishments with events such as musical celebrations and pie and tea offerings has the Wild Blueberry Heritage Center a summer destination like no other. Learn more at WildBlueberryHeritageCenter.org.
Photos by Kaysie Logan.