The Sweet Stuff

Posted in Blog, Farming on Monday, January 29, 2024

Sakuma Brothers Farm’s pioneering role and delivering the taste of Washington to tables around the world.

The Sweet Stuff

AS YOU BROWSE YOUR LOCAL MARKET, you spot a box of bright, beautiful blueberries from Sakuma Brothers Farm in Washington and put it in your basket, already envisioning your first bite, with its exquisitely sweet yet slightly tart pop. Whether you’re shopping across the world in Japan or here in Washington, the berries are the same, and that first bite will be equally delicious.

Washington is the No. 1 blueberry-producing state in the United States, and we export many of our fresh and frozen berries internationally, with the main exports going to Canada, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Berries travel by sea and air to arrive quickly to their destinations.

Mikala Staples Hughes, the director of quality and technical services at Sakuma Brothers, says the family-owned farm has historically focused on exporting to Southeast Asia — and every berry they ship internationally represents dozens of decisions and months of planning.

“We have to be really selective in the quality that we choose,” she said. “So weeks in advance — even months in advance — we’re planning out, by the week and by the day, what field, what variety, what packs we’ll be sending. We’re really focused on how we get the best quality, the best shelf life, the best taste, and the best experience for our consumer — really from the very beginning.”

Those decisions mean that whatever side of the globe you’re on, you’re biting into the freshest, most beautiful berry possible.

Sakuma Brothers Farm has been operating outside Burlington in the Skagit Valley since 1935. Now in its fourth generation of family ownership, the farm grows and processes fresh and frozen blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries.

Staples Hughes smiled as she walked through a row of Aurora blueberries, a variety that ripens later in the growing season. She pointed at one of the bushes. “As you can see, there’s still a bit of red on the bush, so we’ll be picking these probably beginning next week.” Walking farther down the row, she spotted a perfect, ripe berry and popped it into her mouth.

Staples Hughes said she loves knowing that the berries are going to be exported all over the world.

“The feeling you have when you see that truck drive away and you know it’s headed to the airport is a pretty great feeling,” she said. “It’s really exciting for all of us at Sakumas.”

Because of its high-quality soil and mild growing climate, Washington has one of the longest berry seasons in North America. Staples Hughes said in addition to those factors, the care and safety measures the farmers take to grow high-quality produce make Washington stand out.

“I feel there’s a real sense of pride as a Washingtonian knowing the rest of the world seeks our products,” she said. “Think of the products you might pass on the road or the farmer that you know down the street — their products are going to other consumers outside our country.”

If you need yet one more reason to be grateful for our glorious state, look no further than our abundant, delicious berries and the farmers who think of everything.

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