(North Judson, IN) - It’s blueberry picking season at farms throughout the area. One farm just to the south is also a popular destination for Chicago area residents.
Goin’s Blueberry Lane in Northwest Indiana outside North Judson features more than 30 acres of blueberry bushes. Kevin and Pat Goin have owned the farm since 1980.
Pat Goin grew up working at her cousin’s blueberry farm during the summer, then fate, perhaps, opened the door for her to purchase another relative’s farm. Goin and her husband, a retired bricklayer, didn’t hesitate to accept the offer and continue to reap benefits.
The Goins have more than doubled their acreage and take special delight whenever their two daughters and grandchildren come over to help at the farm about 25 miles south of La Porte.
“It’s a rewarding job. It’s a rewarding life. We work hard, and when we’re done, we enjoy our life,” Goin said.
Goin’s Blueberry Lane is among 18 farms featured during the Indiana State Fair scheduled from July 29 to August 21.
She plans to let fairgoers know the work is hard and the days can be long, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You have to have a passion for what you do. If you love what you do, it’s not a job,” Goin said.
She also wants to inform people that working at a blueberry farm is not just during the picking season from late June to mid-August. The blueberry bushes must be pruned during the winter to help keep a healthy crop.
Other chores range from cleaning up and maintaining the grounds to fertilizing and watering the bushes to keeping an eye on any crop-damaging late spring frost in the forecast.
Visitors in good numbers come from as far as Indianapolis and Chicago during the U-pick season.
“Many of our customers are generational customers. We’ve known them for 35-plus years, and now their grandchildren are customers,” she said.
A percentage of the blueberries at the farm are commercially packed for wholesale distribution.
After the picking season, Goin said the blueberries left in the shrubs are harvested and sold to a large coop for use in making various products. Jams, jellies, baking mixes, and even blueberry barbecue sauce and blueberry salsa are among the goods offered at their farm market.
There’s also honey from 70 to 80 hives kept at the farm for bees to help pollinate the blueberry blossoms.
“Without the bees, we would not have good large berries,” Goin said.
Ten varieties of blueberries are grown at the farm, offering product tastings during an annual holiday open house.
Goin did everything from picking, packing, and checking out customers during her summers working at her cousin’s farm. She later received a degree in merchandising and worked at a Marshall Field store in Chicago before quitting to start raising a family.
Her daughters, their husbands, and children help whenever they can at the farm.
One of her favorite stories is about a record number of customers at the farm last year on July 4. Goin said there were 96 vehicles in their parking lot all at once.
“If you can imagine all of those people out in that one field picking. It was quite the sight,” Goin said.