Ellsworth American interviews Yarborough about Maine blueberry industry, retirement

The Ellsworth American spoke with David Yarborough, a professor with the School of Food and Agriculture and wild blueberry specialist with University of Maine Cooperative Extension, for the article, “Market glut, low prices hurt Maine’s blueberry industry.” The per-pound price for Maine blueberries steadily dropped from 76 cents in 2012 to 60 cents in 2014 and 27 cents in 2016, according to Yarborough. In 2017, the per-pound price crept back up slightly. Yarborough said official numbers haven’t been released but some growers made as much as 35 cents per pound. Advocates of the native lowbush blueberries growing in Maine and Canada say they are richer in health benefits and flavor than highbush varieties, according to the article. Yarborough said the stronger flavor is due to a greater mix of genetic material in the plant species. Educating growers and the public about Maine’s wild blueberries has been the horticulture professor’s mission for 40 years, the article states. He is expected to retire in April and has been working with UMaine officials to choose and train his successor. Even with all of the industry’s struggles, Yarborough said he remains optimistic. “As with any agricultural enterprise, there are booms and busts, ups and downs, but if we can find some good markets, even overseas markets and get some consumer demands, things will turn around,” he said.