Vermont Seaberry Company at SHO Farm: Harvesting Insights with Mia Jung "The Seaberry Whisperer"
by Shawn Smith
We at Vermont Seaberry Company are thrilled to announce that our 2015 harvest season is underway.
The shrubs are doing beautifully despite a devasting snowstorm in December 2014, and extremely rainy 2015 spring and summer. The snowstorm damaged several shrubs, including breaking whole branches off a few of our big producers. But, these hardy plants are meant to be pruned so the loss of more mature, main branches isn't a major setback. In fact, as nitrogen fixing plants pruning has beneficial consequences.
This year about 90% of our 100+ mature, productive shrubs produced berries. Harvesting berries and leaves is the sole responsibility of orchard caretaker Mia Jung. Ask anyone familiar with harvesting seaberries and I'm certain they'd all say the same thing -- it's tough and time-consuming because of the thorns. Yes, for all their beauty and multi-faceted ecological benefits, our beloved seaberry shrubs are prickly.
Mia has been charged with bringing in VSC's berry crop since 2011. She hand-harvests each berry, since VSC's goal is to preserve the nutritional properties of the berries, as best as possible, from field-to-freezer. Her proficiency, in spite of the thorns, has landed her the title "Seaberry Whisperer." It's as though the shrubs know Mia is coming to harvest them, so they "let down" their thorny guard. Last year she harvested 21 pounds of berries a day from a select few shrubs, where optimal harvesting conditions collided to allow this amazing feat.
Mia and I have been working closely to collect and analyze a wide variety of data about the seabuckthorn shrub and its berries, leaves, and bark. But hands down, Mia spends the most time with the plants and has an ever-growing intimate knowledge of them.
Today is Day 3 of the 2015 seaberry harvest season. I caught up with Mia yesterday while she was harvesting UOf9 (Upper Orchard female 9), and got some insights from her -- enjoy.
Nuances Of Hand-Harvesting Seaberries
Differences Between 2014 & 2015 Berries
Impact Of Rainy 2015 Spring & Summer On The Berries
Impact Of Rainy 2015 Spring & Summer On Harvesting