Blueberry Harvest

The blueberry harvest begins this week in Nacogdoches County. It's day three of blueberry harvest on the Hayter Farm, 50 acres of 35,000 blueberry bushes that can be seen from Hiway 21 West.

An automatic picker will gather a bumper crop of 600,000 pounds of berries placing Henry Sunda on blueberry time. "We start in the middle of the night, 10-12o'clock at night when it's cool and berries hold up better that way while we're processing them. By this time in the morning, 9-10:00 we're out of the field and all the work shifts over to the packing and sorting shed."

The Hayter Farm now owns a computerized blueberry sorter, a New Zealand invention. A color sensor pulls out unripened green berries. Another sensor is testing for firmness. Technician Nicholas Breeuwer comes from New Zealand to see the operation runs smoothly. "It's dropping each berry onto a sensor and the sensor is picking up rather it's hard by the way it bounces," he explained.

Final inspections are done the old fashioned way by women who hand select the berries and occasionally taste one for sweetness.

Up to 7,000 pounds of berries can be packaged in an hour. The Nacogdoches product will be shipped to Houston, San Antonio,and Dallas. Colorado, Missouri and Canada too. Chairman of the Texas Blueberry Marketing Association, Debbie Stevens said, "People like to buy 'Go Texan' products so it's not only supporting our town, but our state as well."

Blueberry harvest will continue for about 25 days.

Twenty five rows of the best berries have been selected to supply Saturday's Nacogdoches Blueberry Festival. They'll be harvested the night before and sold the next day on the square.