The frigid North Atlantic October water temperatures here hover around 40 degrees Scientists say if you fall in water like this without protection you can die and as little as 15 minutes It’s stormy out here. We’re off the coast of Greenland and this is typical fall weather The waves are six to eight meters 20 to 26 feet high They’re battering our 400 foot boat This ship is bringing thousands of tons of cargo from Portland Maine to Reykjavik Iceland No one has slept in two days The furniture our dinner our bodies the entire boat are on the receiving end of penalty kicks from the sea Why the heck am I here this saga starts with a very small fruit Our story is set against three dramatic landscapes the lava fields of Iceland The brilliant but barbaric North Atlantic Ocean and the bolder filled blueberry Barrens of Down East Maine first harvested by Native Americans thousands of years ago You’re going on this adventure with me TV journalist Dustin Bukowski poet and that guy cameraman Kirk Freddie after left We want to put a human face on Maine’s economy in the 21st century Maybe phrases like tariffs trade wars and made in China are making their way into your dinner conversations Maybe they’re not either way If you live in Maine millions of your dollars were spent over the past few years to revamp a Container Terminal in Portland The terminal has built a metaphoric bridge of sorts allowing Maine companies to import and export all kinds of stuff Fish cars windmill parts to Europe and beyond whether you realize it or not there’s a good chance the device you’re watching this show on and the components that make it up have traveled thousands and Thousands of miles to get to you but how does that journey happen and who makes it happen? How does something grown or supplied in Maine turn into something that’s demanded somewhere else. And why is this link? So important that Maine is spending millions and millions of dollars to make it happen We’re going to explore the answers to those questions by following that very small fruit I mention as it’s turned into jam and sent across the ocean to Iceland Enter the wild blueberry these tiny beads of flavor are the protagonist of our story They’re BB sized much smaller than their high bushed cousins which you can find in just about every grocery store while Maine lobster has a lot of street cred the state literally grows tons of Blueberries the University of Maine says Maine is the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world and grows 10% of all blueberries produced in North America we’re gonna find out who froze the berries who makes them into Jam who make sure the jam doesn’t end up in the sea on Its way to Iceland and where the jam ends up once it’s there To get our wild blue party started Kirk and I have come here, Washington County, Maine 31,000 people live in this Delaware sized hunk of the Pine Tree State at the collage of natural beauty In every way this place were heavenly blue water laps against tree covered cliffs is Wild blueberry land how many blueberries do you eat a year? I don’t know Well, we eat them every day on oatmeal Marie Emerson knows a lot about two wild blueberry lands the figurative one Washington County and this wild blueberry land the roadside oddity She built on the corner of Route one and a town called, Columbia Falls Park farm stand heart bakery part ad hoc Museum This structure is without a doubt the biggest wild berry that was ever big wild blue and a berry So to answer a question you didn’t ask Yes there once really was a little talkative woman lived in a blueberry Now how many pies have you seen that actually have a moose in the pie? No joke around here Marie makes her moose pies the same way she farms her berries by hand her fine fruits grow in places like this blueberry Barrens that turn a fiery red come fall But beneath the sweet beautiful aesthetic you’re eating up is a reality Sour and cold facing farmers in one of Maine’s poorest regions. See your neighbors I talked to a neighbor yesterday tears in his eyes and says he has to sell the family farm. It’s sad It’s just not right I mean Washington counties always been hard-working people, you know, it would be no different It was a lobstermen that have to sell the boats and have to sell their equipment, you know, because they can’t make it it’s It’s something that the state of Maine needs to look at And they need to help they need to do something for these small growers Last year was a disaster with the president of crop was really bad The price was terrible that she had the crops been a little bit other prices nobody so for five generations Wayne hanscom’s family has picked pruned and cherished these acres of wild blueberry land today he and his daughter sent fresh berries all over Maine every summer the difference between the Maine blueberry the wild blueberry and the Cultivated blueberry is size, but it’s also flavor the high Bush berry contains a lot more water and It has a mile flava the wild blueberry had a very strong Distinct flavor all this work isn’t paying the bills like it used to in 2018 Some farmers didn’t even bother to harvest large tracts of Barrens. It wasn’t worth it The hanscom’s had to diversify their income to pay the bills Wayne will drive cement trucks drive overnight seafood trucks from Washington County to Boston He’s even built cabins on his farm to rent out his air B&B. So we done about 20-some thousand pounds and fresh that goes Probably half local and half goes as far as Connecticut The rest of them which was about 50 some thousand this year when to women’s Well, I’ve had people tell me when I brought them up here for the first time that it looks like Africa, you know Because it’s dis Berendt these fields have been in production for 100 over 100 years and before that Like I said, the early settlers and the Native Americans we’re using these fields High-risk blueberries are from the big player in the blueberry business is a company called Wyman’s they farm and pack more blueberries than anyone in These parts and buy some of the berry supply they need from small farmers like Wayne those berries get mixed with others from here Wyman’s massive blueberry Barrens into Blois main population 57 it’s the type of place where roots run deep and wrapped themselves around the blueberry business. I was a little kid my My grandfather and my uncle both had blueberry fields, so that’s how ever my school closed back when I was little okay So you actually know what it’s like to do I do. Oh, yeah, I grew up with it This had worked Homer Woodward is the vice president of operations for Wyman’s he gave us an up-close tour of their operations in the field from his four-wheel-drive Office. It’s planted by nature man. Doesn’t we don’t plan it we find land and develop it into a blueberry field what we’re doing is we’re actually proving the blueberry bushes to prepare the crop for the 2025 what’s a blueberry mean to you? Money I guess There’s a job I’ve been mowing dirty. A lot of it was night boy Pruning and mowing in this field is a carefully planned and executed operation the mowing lanes you’re seeing were plotted out on GPS maps Farmers also have to make sure they’re mowing. The right field. Each wild blueberry field can only be harvested once every two years Preparation and care is constant. Do you like to eat them? I Like some of them. Yeah, they’re all different tasting some I’m a sweet some on Misawa So that’s how I like the side ones better, I don’t know why it’s just because they’re all different There’s five or six different greens blueberry To verify our new friends claim Kirk and I made moves to this spot Helen’s restaurant in Machias This place is a local institution Smack dab front and center on Main Street in this joint a typical lunch special is a burger topped with goat cheese Onions wild blueberry jam and wait for it wild blueberry mustard and more importantly Helens was packed with fruit fanatics to put in our show Blueberries in the world we travel all over without a doubt because they Have the soil that no one else has how important are these blueberries to everybody around here? Well a lot of people That’s their your income. I rake blueberries all my childhood for school clothes Every year if there worked really hard I could get that extra You know that I wanted or that I saw somewhere. What about the blueberry pie at this place? Oh, it’s great I wouldn’t eat anywhere else She wasn’t kidding a slice of this stuff is heaven a la mode behold Helens legendary wild blueberry pie Standing nearly two inches high these monuments to all that is sweet yet subtly tart are topped by a planet-sized dollop of ice cream And if for some reason you don’t like blueberries, you can join Kirk the nonconformity and get Apple These apples don’t even have any support the blueberries in Helens pies show up at the restaurant like this The bags are packed here at Wyman’s processing facility and cherry filled, Maine millions of wild berries from the fields We showed you are shipped here in taupe boxes Like these the berries are flash frozen after harvest in summer and kept in a warehouse until they’re ready to be Repacked at this plant and sent to customers Adam West not Batman I asked is the manufacturing manager here go ahead and choose your size and We’ll get buttoned up and ready to go think I’m a medium You don’t have some medium here I’d be medium small that’s right names are smallest Atom is responsible for all the berries while they’re in the plant If someone could bleed blueberry juice, it’s him. I’m fourth generation of my family that’s worked for this company So I’ve seen it from the ground up I’ve worked here since I was old enough to come in the plant when I was 16 I’ve harvested the crop when they were on the field started raking blueberries at 5:00 So I think that’s why I have such a vast interest If plants interior is what I imagine being inside an unused sealed Replacement water filter feels like it’s dimly lit and cold to keep products frozen. You can see your breath in here It’s also super super clean almost ominously So you have to set up your shoes when you walk in the door And as soon as the production lines are shut down for the night All these conveyors and chutes are sanitized – so how hard is it to keep this thing clean? How is it? Yes, it’s very hard as far as a plant and the lines go We have four guys that come in that clean all five of our lines and we give them nine hours If nine hours they come in at nine o’clock at night. They’re done by five o’clock in the morning and Five to six and then we’re back up and running at six o’clock the next morning So this point here runs 16 hours a day, and then the rest is cleanup time until 6 o’clock Wow and what do they do they’re sanitizing all the product contact surfaces the floors Equipment anything that may come contact with the food or the floors the drains all all the plan is completely sanitized Adam brought us through the whole packing process The first ice blocks of berries have to be broken up then a laser sorter separates the berries and any leftover stems are taken out ugly or inadequate berries are picked out by him about a dozen women many of them from Mexico or Central America sift through Tracing pie and its way to a box or bag. This is the Quality Control Department the vinyl this is Quality the two ladies over here On the final set of eyes before the product gets to look into a lot of pressure on them. That’s right There’s a big Manufacturing line for both customers like restaurants a smaller one takes care of bags destined for places like grocery stores The berries are weighed out into the proper size for packaging on the way to the bags and bottles Okay, so we got a nice display case. They got the nice robotic arm. This obviously is something cool then we can talk about Practice. This is a BPA machine. So what this is doing is two bags. There’s eight bags in this case It’s an eight four pound box. So what they’re doing is it’s putting two bags into the cassette at a time It’ll pile up eight bags and then it’ll slide the bags into the box and then the Box flips down and process goes through in The bag without the box passes through the tape machine here From packaging it’s off to the forklift and a warehouse tilt to negative five degrees Fahrenheit A chilly final stop for the berries before they’re loaded onto trucks and sent back out into the world TPB That is where we’re going the world the big wet horizon on the other side of the blueberry Barrens at least in a little bit Maine does export blueberries in whole frozen form across the globe but the fairies we’re concerned with don’t go straight on this ship the ones that ended up on the deck getting battered out there with Us were turned into jam in southern Maine our next stop on ship me out