🔵 There is a rising demand for organic blueberries in NJ this season

🔵 The state's largest grower and distributor is prepared to deliver

🔵 The blueberry is New Jersey's state fruit


HAMMONTON — New Jersey is about a month away from the beginning of its blueberry harvest season. Mid-June to mid-July is the primary blueberry season in the Garden State and farmers are getting excited for it.

There is always a demand for blueberries since it is the state fruit, but in 2024, there is an even bigger demand for organic blueberries, said Joshua Minton, sales manager for Frank Donio in Hammonton, the largest distributor, and grower of blueberries in New Jersey.

The Atlantic County town has been billed “the blueberry capital of the world” because 80 percent of the state’s blueberries come from the county’s 56 farms, which are either located in or directly around Hammonton.

Frank Donio, Hammonton, NJ (Google Street View)
Frank Donio, Hammonton, NJ (Google Street View)
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Organic vs. Traditionally Grown Blueberries

Organic berries are grown without the use of conventional synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or GMOS, so it’s managing the weeds within the property properly without using those specific chemicals and synthetic pesticides, Minton said.

Conventional blueberries are grown with these synthetic pesticides sprayed on them. These synthetic pesticides may keep away bugs, but they also kill the weeds to make picking the blueberries easier, he added.

Organically, farmers are allowed to use specific fertilizers and pesticides, but they must be registered organic, according to industry standards.

Frank Donio, Hammonton, NJ (Frank Donio)
Frank Donio, Hammonton, NJ (Frank Donio)
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Why has demand for organic berries grown?

Demand for organic blueberries has grown in New Jersey over the past three or four years, Minton said.

“You’re seeing more imported blueberries becoming organic which then creates a year-long program of organic blueberries that customers seem to grow towards more,” Minton said.

Synthetic pesticides are a huge reason for that. New Jersey, specifically, has changed its acreage from conventional to organic, and that’s why it’s believed the market is more ready for a larger growth of organics. There’s data across the past 12 months that shows that the percentage of growth is higher than the conventional market, Minton explained.

On store shelves, traditionally-grown berries may cost somewhere around $2.99 and organic berries may cost about $3.99. While organic is a bit more expensive, Minton says if a consumer knows the berry is grown with good, organic fertilizer without synthetic pesticides, they’ll pay the extra dollar for it.

“I think that’s partially why the category has grown because the price differentiating is minimal especially during the domestic season,” Minton said.

Frank Donio, Hammonton, NJ (Frank Donio)
Frank Donio, Hammonton, NJ (Frank Donio)
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Can NJ meet organic blueberry demand?

The broad answer is yes. Since Frank Donio is the largest organic grower and distributor of blueberries in New Jersey with more than 200 organic acreage, it is ready to provide every resident if organic blueberries if they want them, Minton said.

New Jersey is one of the top states that grows organic blueberries. Minton said California and Georgia grow the most organic blueberries. Michigan is another state that grows a lot of organic berries and Canada has a large organic blueberry presence, too, he said.

Benefits of blueberries

Aside from being a small, compact snack that you can take on the go offering convenience, blueberries are packed with nutrients like Vitamins C and K. They are low in calories and have been known to improve brain function and memory, Minton said.

Top Crop label, Frank Donio, Hammonton (Frank Donio)
Top Crop label, Frank Donio, Hammonton (Frank Donio)
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Weather

The petals have fallen off the flowers on which blueberries grow. The berries are now exposed to the elements. Assuming there is good weather in the next 30 days, all should be fine, Minton said.

“After that 30-day mark, this happened last year, New Jersey sustained about eight days of rainy weather during the Jersey blueberry season and that is going to affect the crop,” he said.

So, if New Jersey can have 25 to 30 days of warm, dry weather, that would be optimal.
Organic blueberries in stores

Frank Donio’s organic blueberries are sold in many supermarkets across New Jersey under the “Top Crop” label. The conventional berries have a yellow Top Crop label. Organic is a green Top Crop. They can be found in Stop n’ Shop, Shop Rite, Acme, and up north at Uncle Giuseppe’s.

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