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New documentary shines a light on a small but iconic Maine product

“Growing Wild” tells the story of the wild blueberry through the eyes of the people who steward it.

PORTLAND, Maine — On Maine’s wild blueberry farms, tradition runs deep.

Take the Brodis farm in Hope. Ron Howard manages the operation, and his mother-in-law owns it. 

According to Howard, the farm goes back to 1799, when a family ancestor was given a land grant. Blueberry farms that have been in the same family for three or four generations aren’t uncommon in Maine, but a history that dates back to the presidency of George Washington is impressive.

The Brodis farm is one of several featured in a short documentary, “Growing Wild,” about Maine’s wild blueberry industry. 

Nearly all of the wild blueberries in the U.S. come from Maine, where they have grown for thousands of years. The berries, harvested from low bushes that are especially prevalent in Hancock and Washington Counties, are small, sweet, and loaded with nutrients.

In directing “Growing Wild,” which the industry supported but did not have editorial involvement in, Jameson Smith had a simple plan: To tell the story of the Maine wild blueberry. 

“I thought of no better way into that story than people who bring that crop to life for us and bring it around the world for people to enjoy,” Smith says. “So we really wanted to focus on character stories.”

Among those characters is Ashley Field, who with her husband owns and runs Fields Fields, an organic blueberry farm on a hilltop in Dresden. After growing up on a dairy farm in western Maine, she was drawn to the history and distinctive qualities of the wild blueberry.

“Just in one small blueberry field — say, one acre — there can be up to a thousand varieties, and that’s what makes wild blueberries so unique,” Field says. “It’s not just one variety, one taste, one color. It’s all mixed together.”

Smith and his team are now submitting “Growing Wild” to film festivals in the U.S. and beyond. They’ll update the film’s website once they know when and where it’ll be screened. 

“After the festival run, we will release the film publicly for people to enjoy,” he said.

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