Family Farm Turned Family Venture
Patty and Fred Omodt didn’t start off growing blueberries, but these days their farm is a source of family pride and enjoyment, in addition to income. “Blueberries are one of the finest foods on earth!” Patty says. Fred, a forester by trade, and Patty bought 25 acres in Sandpoint, Idaho, in 1991. It took four years of working together as a family—they now have eight children—to turn the land into their ideal home. The family spent the next 20 years raising cows, chickens and pigs. After the kids left for college, Patty and Fred decided to develop six of the acres as a commercial blueberry farm, calling it Shingle Mill Blueberry Farm. They also grow about 500 strawberry plants, reserved for the family’s enjoyment and so the grandkids can pick and sell fruit at the local farmers market. In an average year, the farm’s nine varieties of bushes yield about 25,000 pounds of blueberries. Shingle Mill offers a pick-it-yourself option, but most of the fruit is sold at farmers markets. During the growing season—early July through early September—Patty and Fred work about 16 hours a day, hand-picking blueberries with help from grandchildren and local farm kids. They also get assistance from their three daughters, two of whom are teachers and one who is pursuing a master’s degree in library science. Their sons are occupied elsewhere, with four of them serving in the military and one more about to begin his service. Besides being a busy farmer, Patty is a part-time U.S. Army lactation specialist in Tacoma, Washington, which requires an occasional overnight stay when she travels almost six hours from the farm. She says she loves raising blueberries and helping moms learn how to raise healthy babies equally. Although operating the blueberry farm is hard work, Patty says they wouldn’t trade it for anything. “It’s all worth it,” she says, “because not only do we get to enjoy having a family business, we are also able to sell both flavor and health—all in a little blue berry.”
One of Patty and Fred Omodt’s daughters, Kelly, shows off their Duke blueberries.