Whately farm’s blueberry crop destroyed by recent frost

A local farm is asking for help after a devastating blow from Mother Nature.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 3:16 PM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2023 at 6:28 PM EDT
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WHATELY, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A local farm is asking for help after a devastating blow from Mother Nature. Last week’s severe freeze destroyed the majority of Sobieski’s River Valley Farm’s blueberry crop.

The fields at the Whately farm are usually full of blooming blueberry bushes at this time of year, but after a hard frost early on May 18, they’re left with acres of brown and shriveled up blossoms on rows and rows of bushes.

“This is the most severe damage we’ve ever experienced in the farm’s history,” said Robert Sobieski.

Sobieski told us his family has been growing high bush blueberries for 46 years, now with over 10,000 bushes in the fields. The frost last week destroyed the majority of his crops, both early season varieties and the main season crop.

“At this point, it’s looking like 75 to 80 percent of the entire farm has been lost,” Sobieski added.

They rely on the blueberry crop, not only for the income, but it’s a way of life with the farmstand and annual pick-your-own service that draws families to the farm every year. Challenges are a way of life for farmers, but a loss of this size is too much to absorb. Without the harvest, the rest of the business suffers.

“It’s a lot of work that goes into growing blueberries. It’s been almost an entire year’s worth of work just to get to harvest, so it’s pretty devastating and now, with most of this lost, we have to work an entire, another year just to get to next year’s harvest,” Sobieski

Though with some extra work to prune out the damage and protect against disease, Sobieski told Western Mass News he’s hoping for a decent harvest next year, but to help bridge that gap and get through this season, they’ve set up a GoFundMe to help sustain daily farm operations and to invest in frost and freeze protection equipment.