By Stan Maddux
NORTH JUDSON, Ind. – An Indiana woman grew up working at her cousin’s blueberry farm and now watches her children and grandchildren follow in her footsteps at her own farm.
Pat Goin and her husband, Kevin, have owned and operated Goin’s Blueberry Lane outside North Judson since 1980.
Fate was at work, perhaps, when Pat Goin, more than a dozen years after graduating from high school, was offered a chance to purchase another relative’s blueberry farm about 25 miles east of the farm she worked at near DeMotte as a child.
Goin said she and her husband, a retired bricklayer, didn’t hesitate to accept the offer and continue to reap the benefits.
The Goins have more than doubled their acreage and take special delight whenever their two daughters and grandchildren come over to help.
“It’s a rewarding job. It’s a rewarding life. We work hard and when we’re done, we enjoy our life,” she said.
Goin’s Blueberry Lane is among 18 farms to be featured during the Indiana State Fair, July 29-Aug. 21.
Her plan is 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,” she said.
She also wants to inform people that work at a blueberry farm is not just during the picking season, which runs 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 clean up and maintenance of the grounds, fertilizing and watering of the bushes, and keeping an eye on any crop-damaging late spring frost in the forecast.
Nearly half of the 80-acre farm in the northwest part of the state is used for raising blueberries while the rest of the ground is wooded.
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 berries are commercially packed for wholesale distribution. After the picking season, Goin said berries 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,” she said.
Ten varieties of blueberries are grown at the farm, which also offers product tastings during an annual holiday open house.
In 2000, the operation became the first blueberry farm in Indiana to volunteer to participate in food safety audits.
While working during summers at her cousin’s farm, Goin said she did everything from picking, packing and checking out customers. She later received a degree in merchandising and worked at a Marshall Field’s store in Chicago before quitting to start raising a family.
Her daughters along with their children, help at the farm.
Goin’s childhood work experience helped her hit the ground running when she and her husband purchased their 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 at one time.
“If you can imagine all of those people out in that one field picking. It was quite the sight,” she said.
The Goins will be featured at the state fair on Aug. 3.