James Matthews is an established blueberry grower with a u-pick operation in northeastern North Carolina. He and his family specialize in berries and orchard fruits, growing strawberries, blackberries, peaches, pears. They produce blueberry plants for sale as well. James also regularly offer classes in horticultural techniques for raising blueberries on the farm. For the past two years, the family has been working to establish their farm as an agritourism destination by providing an educational, hands-on farm experiences for all ages. James envisions a farm where he can make sales of fresh produce as well as provide activities to engage and entertain the farm’s visitors, from hayrides to farm tours.
In 2015, James received a grant to help construct a new educational building, a picnic area, four new orchard areas that can will serve as u-pick areas, and a small country store. The new venture will fill a void for agritourism activities in the region and provide educational opportunities about agriculture for children in the area.
The family’s “Happy Acres Farm Market” got up and running in 2015 and is now entering its first year of full operation. The family has already seen an increase in public interest and visits to the farm. Thanks to their interviews on local radio and regional advertising efforts, their u-pick sales have increased by nearly 500%.
The farm also features a new Blueberry Museum dedicated to the history of one of the world’s best-loved berries. James plans to continue his horticultural teaching, covering how to grow and store blueberries, and will use the new facility to impart more of a historical perspective on the well-known fruit to visitors and school groups.