TERRE HAUTE —
Berry lovers came from all over to enjoy 1,500 pounds of organic blueberries and other locally produced foods Thursday at the fifth annual 2013 Blueberry Festival.
The event was presented by Terre Foods in hopes of reaching its goal of 600 members — a goal it needed to reach to show local banks it has enough community support to open a cooperative market grocery store, said Holly Hudson, Terre Foods member and festival coordinator.
And Terre Foods did just that by surpassing its goal after closing down the event around an hour earlier than expected because it sold out of berries and products. The final count was 602 members, said Lorrie Heber, Terre Foods board member. The next steps to opening a grocery store are hiring a general manager, selecting a site and conducting a member loan drive.
“Terre Foods wants to bring quality food to the community all week long,” Hudson said.
Heber agrees with the idea of having a grocery store.
“It would offer local and whole foods,” she said. “This is important for personal health reasons. People can approach the farmers who made the crop with questions they may have and it is supporting the local economy by keeping dollars flowing in this area.”
Heber said Terre Haute gets around 90 percent of its food from over 400 miles away when people could seize the opportunity to feed themselves from much more local sources.
Maddie Webster, a vegetarian and first-year visitor to the blueberry festival, said she likes the idea of having an alternative food source at which consumers know where the food comes from.
Vendors that attended the blueberry festival were Advanced Fitness Coaching, Wabash Valley Food Hub, Flavours, Appleseed Farms, Yellow House Honey, abunchabags and Lehman Persimmons.
Aside from the berries, other products were available, such as frozen persimmon pulp processed at Orleans in Orange County.
Jerry Lehman, owner of Lehman Persimmons, said a number of treats can come from the unique flavor of persimmon pulp — persimmon pecan pie, persimmon cookies and persimmon pudding.
“I’ve had people tell me persimmon pudding was one of the best things they have ever tasted,” he said. “The main purchasers of persimmon pulp are the people who moved out of Indiana and still want to enjoy that pudding. It has more of a brownie texture than a pudding texture.”
Lehman decided to pursue the persimmon business when he noticed a lack of competition in that field.
Another Vendor, Aaron Warner, owner of Yellow House Honey, offered honey tea, raw honey, blueberries and blackberries at the festival. He said he believes that Indiana has some of the best soil on the planet and the use of chemicals shouldn’t be overdone.
“We should be using what Mother Nature has provided for us,” he said while explaining his growing methods. “Something as simple as using pond algae as fertilizer can make a huge difference.”
Hudson said the group plans to have a blueberry festival again next year.
“Hopefully, next year, we will be having this event in the parking lot of our grocery store.”
Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached at 812-231-4255 and firstname.lastname@example.org.