By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
HARTWICK SEMINARY – David Ingalls knows the cure for whatever might trouble you: “I get a lot of doctors here from Bassett, and I want to tell them they should write prescriptions for people to come and pick blueberries!”
Ingalls owns Ingalls Blueberry Hill on Seminary Road, the only certified organic U-Pick in Otsego County. “That makes all the difference,” he said. “It’s a little more expensive, but that’s what people say they want.”
He father, Rodney, bought a parcel in 1975 that crosses Route 28. He and David planted blueberries on a 10-acre hillside parcel, a former cow pasture.
“He sent me to Cornell to learn about farming,” the son said. “We weren’t sure if it would pay off, but when we got them planted, people couldn’t wait to come up and pick berries!”
The same purchase included flatland on the east side of Route 28 (now part of Dreams Park), which the father gave to Paul, David’s brother, who grew strawberries there.
David worked as a school counselor in Cherry Valley and Oneonta, and runs the farm as his retirement. “I picked up where my dad left off,” he said.
With over 5,000 plants in six different varieties – Blue Crop are good for pies, Blue Ray for muffins – people will drive great distances to hand-pick their favorites. Any variety you pick, they’re $3.60 a pound.
“I’ve loved blueberries my whole life,” said Robert Goldstein, Phoenicia. “Three years ago, I started looking for an organic u-pick within driving distance, and now I come every weekend!”
“I come up after work,” said Marie Oprea, West Oneonta. “I bake a lot, so I use them there. Last year I picked 40 pounds!”
“It’s a good family activity,” Ingalls said. “You don’t have to bend over to pick them the way you do strawberries, so everyone can do it. It’s a nice day in the country.”
And while he discourages “grazing,” he does invite you to sample to figure out which ones you like best. He jokes that in 20 years, the kids have to return to pay for the blueberries they eat. “I want them to come back when they are adults and bring their kids!” he said.
When youngsters are tired of picking, he has new five sheep that they can pet as well, in a pen at the top of the hill.
And his commitment to organic doesn’t stop with his berries. He uses a gravity-fed drip irrigation system and powers his well-house with solar panels. His home, at the top of the farm, is heated through geothermal.
As the season winds down, Ingalls and his crews pick as many as 10,000 pounds to freeze and sell throughout the winter, as well as to make jam with. “We have a really good jam recipe,” he said. “And you can only get it at the farm.”
He also carries honey made from the bees that pollinate his fields – he rents 24 swarms of honeybees every year – and maple syrup tapped from the trees on his farm.
“If you pick 50 pounds, we give you a free jar of jam, syrup or honey,” he said.
But if you can’t get away to pick them yourself, both the Green Earth and Cooperstown Natural Foods carry them fresh every day. “We take 36 pints a day to Cooperstown Natural Foods,” he said. “We’ve got local families that come and pick 200 pints a day for us.”???
They also take 30 pounds a week to Stagecoach Coffee in Cooperstown for their smoothies.
The farm is open six days a week, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5 until dark Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday through the end of August.
“Come at dusk,” he said. “It’s very romantic.”