Fam­ily Farm Turned Fam­ily Ven­ture

Farm & Ranch Living - - FARM TABLE - BY KATH­LEEN MUL­ROY

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.

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