BRIGHTON — Everything’s coming up blueberries for Kim and Steve Anderson. The pair are the owners of Blueberry Bottom, a you-pick blueberry farm in Brighton, which opened last week, and is the only certified organic blueberry farm in the state of Iowa.
In 2014, the Andersons transitioned their farm to grow organic grains, which are turned into organic chicken feed. However, Kim had a strong desire to grow food and began thinking about what she could grow. For the last 20 years, Anderson has been driving to Illinois to pick blueberries and after moving into her grandparents’ house 13 years ago, she began dreaming- literally- about her farm.
“I woke up one morning and I told my husband, ‘I got the name in the night,’” she said with a laugh. Anderson said her grandmother used to always call the portion of the farm where the blueberries are planted the “bottom ground.” She thought the name went well with blueberry and the name stuck.
Growing organic food is important to Anderson because she is a two-time cancer survivor. She said both times she was told the cases were unrelated and environmental, prompting her to take a better look at her diet.
“When they tell you that it’s like OK, what do I need to change,” she said. “So, I decided I would change my diet, start eating more organic, and I thought it made sense we tried to eliminate the chemicals around us on the rest of the farm.”
The 5 1/2-acre farm boasts eight different varieties of highbush blueberries from Michigan. All the berries are large or extra large in size, making it easier for customers to fill their buckets as they have more than 2,500 plants and 98 rows to pick from.
The soil was amended in 2016 and the plants put in the ground in 2017. At that time, they were already 2 years old. Anderson blueberry bushes can grow for years if taken care of properly and will grow to be 5 to 6 feet tall and about 3 feet around.
After two years of pulling off blossoms to make sure the plants would take root, the farm is finally open. She said making the decision to open the farm was nerve-wracking, but she was confident it would appeal to people of all ages.
“These young families seem to want experiences with their kids. Not too many people live on farms anymore, so people like the whole agritourism,” she said. “I want to provide that experience where people can pick fresh fruit and eat while they’re picking and they don’t have to worry that it’s been sprayed with something.”
One of her favorite experiences so far is a 2-year-old who visited the farm one weekend with her mom, then returned the next weekend with both of her parents. Anderson said the child, who referred to Anderson as “the blueberry lady” was giving her dad instructions on how to pick blueberries the right way, based on all the information Anderson gave her the week before.
Visitors of Blueberry Bottom do not need to bring anything, except a cooler for transport, as the Andersons provide buckets for picking. They are also offering a you-pick-up service for people who would like to purchase fresh blueberries but cannot get out to pick them.
Picking the berries is one of Anderson’s favorite parts of the job and one she will gladly do for guests. “I still get excited about any ones I see,” she said with a smile as she pointed out a patch, just right for picking.
Blueberry Bottom is located at 3304 Highway 78 in Brighton and open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., Sundays from 1-5 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. She encourages people to check their Facebook page, Blueberry Bottom, as hours may change depending on weather conditions.