A retrospective look at the history of national blueberry month in the US

July is a good month for blueberries. Not only does it bring blue to red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July, it's also National Cranberry Month. Thanks to the efforts of the NABC and more than 130 NABC members who helped fly the flag last March, July has been recognized as National Blueberry Month by the proclamation of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

This is a great thing for the industry and helps raise awareness about blueberries. It couldn't have come at a better time either, as the proclamation was announced in March, raising awareness for the category at a time when America was locked in and consumers eagerly looking for tasty and satisfying ways to stay healthy.

However, 2020 is not the first year that July has been named National Blueberry Month. It was first recognized in 1974 with then-President Richard Nixon calling on Americans to "observe that month with appropriate ceremonies and activities." In 2005, then-USDA Secretary Mike Johanns made a similar proclamation.

Clearly there is a history between blueberries and July, but to get to the root of it, we need to travel over 100 years to New Jersey in 1893. It was then that Elizabeth White set out to tame blueberries as a cash crop. , which would complement his family's blueberry business. With the help of Fredrick Coville, a USDA botanist, the first blueberries were marketed in 1916. Since those legendary days, New Jersey has remained at the heart of the US blueberry industry, even as other regions of the production both in the US and abroad have played larger roles

Total US volume (All producing regions) compared to New Jersey volume in 2000

Source: USDA Market News through Agronometrics.

 

Total US volume (All producing regions) compared to New Jersey volume in 2019

Source: USDA Market News through Agronometrics.

With a season that runs between weeks 24 and 31, New Jersey blueberries are perfectly positioned to hit the market in July, which typically runs from week 26/27 to week 30/31. New Jersey's pioneering efforts have enabled the United States to create a culture of consumption around July, highlighting it as the key production period even today, when supplies are available year-round.

New Jersey's Latest Historical Volumes

Source: USDA Market News through Agronometrics.

 

Historical volumes of the United States (all producing regions)

Source: USDA Market News through Agronometrics.

As New Jersey recently peaked in production, this is a good time to reflect on how far the industry has come since 1916 and celebrate National Blueberry Month with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

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