The Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is a perennial shrub that will do well in most areas of Kentucky as long as the soil is properly adjusted. With proper care, blueberry plants may remain productive for 40 years or more.
Blueberries have been great sellers when offered at Kentucky’s farmers markets or other direct markets. U-Pick is one of the most desirable ways to market blueberries in Kentucky because it eliminates considerable harvest labor expense. Other options include roadside stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) subscriptions, and local groceries. Produce auctions present an additional marketing opportunity, especially for well-packaged berries. Blueberries continue to be popular with consumers, and acreage for local sales has increased in Kentucky and neighboring states. The identification of antioxidant properties in blueberry fruit, along with other health benefits, helped support consumer demand. More year-round supplies, because of imports, increased per capita blueberry consumption to record levels. The average U.S. fresh blueberry price declined somewhat from 2012 to 2017, but local Kentucky prices remained steady. Kentucky producers can realize well over the national average price by marketing fresh, high quality blueberries locally.
Blueberry cultivars differ as to when they mature; however, they will normally supply ripe berries for a two- to three-week harvest period. By careful cultivar selection, a continuous supply of fresh berries can be produced throughout the fruiting season. Regardless, a minimum of two varieties is needed to assure cross pollination. Select cultivars that produce large, firm, light blue berries with good aroma and flavor. Other desirable characteristics include resistance to cracking and longer shelf life. Consult the University of Kentucky (UK) publication Growing Highbush Blueberries in Kentucky and/or your county extension agent for recommended cultivars. Commercial blueberry production should be considered only if large amounts of organic mulching material are available. Blueberries thrive in a highly organic, well-drained soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.2.