Blueberry harvest in full swing

PAW PAW, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The polar vortex had fruit growers around west Michigan have been on pins and needles waiting to see what kind of damage they might find.

The blueberry harvest is now in full swing and growers are telling us they're pleasantly surprised.

"We see shoots like this up top of that bush that don't have a lot of leaves on it," explains MSU Extension's Mark Longstroth.

After a nearly endless winter of extreme cold, blueberry farmers were left to wait and see if their trees would bear fruit or be left bare.

"This farm hit 20 below 3 times last winter, or 4 times. And when it gets that cold you know you're getting some damage," said Bill Fritz, the owner of Brookside Farms.

But surprising to many experts the damage hasn't been all that bad.

"I'm real happy. The yields are twice what I thought they were going to be early in the season," said Longstroth.

At Brookside farms near Paw Paw some bushes have damage but the ones that are producing look great.

"The quality has been really good, even though we had some winter injury we had all that rain in the spring time and the blueberries like to have wet soil all the time so the fruit right now that they're picking is huge," said Longstroth.

Mark Longstroth at the MSU Extension says Michigan growers should harvest about 80-million pounds of blueberries and give a good boost to the local economy. "The michigan blueberry industry brings in about $120 million a year."

At Brookside they've been packed with pickers enjoying the fruits of their labor and worries.

"It's been a good season for piecing because it hasn't been so hot," said Fritz. "We couldn't ask for anything better for harvest."

The blueberry harvest is about a week behind this year. If you want to u-pick we are told right now is the time. And you'll have until about Labor Day to get out into the fields.