Organic Blueberries, LLC

West Olive Michigan

Organic Blueberries, LLC

West Olive Michigan

Growing a Farm Organically 

During the summertime in West Olive, Michigan, you will find a community indulging in fresh fruit at you-pick farms across the area. Down one of those winding back roads is a farm that’s doing something a little differently – Organic Blueberries, LLC. The farm is run by Victoria Carini, her husband Curtis and their family.  

The land was originally owned by Curtis’ grandmother and then his mother. Curtis planted the blueberry bushes on the property forty years ago, and those same plants still stand today.  

The farm is nothing short of a family affair. Victoria and her daughter Nicole work on the day-to-day operations. While Victoria handles planting operations, Nicole handles business management tasks like bookkeeping. Victoria’s son Derick helps with marketing and branding, and her daughter Kristen helps any time and anywhere she is needed.  

“It’s something we enjoy and we can all do together,” Victoria said. “Family is so important to support you in all of this.” 

Educating Everyone 

The farm offers you-pick berries and pre-picked selections. Victoria’s favorite part about farming is when the community visits and sees exactly where their food comes from. 

“I could’ve just grown blueberries and sent them all to a company, but I love the interaction with the community,” Victoria said. “I love teaching kids. When they come to the farm and pick berries, I love educating them on where their food comes from. We have some home school classes that come to the field. They get to pick their own fruit and they just love it.” 

While Victoria loves when students visit, she recently invited members of GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit Council, Michigan State University Extension and the USDA’s Risk Management Agency to visit. She wanted to share first-hand how crop insurance policies impact producers.  

“As a small grower, every dollar counts,” Victoria reflected. “Being available to talk to people who can make change in policy and making sure they can put a face to a name is very important. I’ll do whatever I need to do to get our story out. These conversations can help a lot of small farmers.” 

Making Crop Insurance a Priority 

After a devastating crop loss in 2021 due to frost, Victoria knew she needed an extra layer of protection for her farm. 

After refinancing her farm through GreenStone, she connected with the specialty crop insurance team. In 2022, she began working with GreenStone crop insurance specialist Phil Preston to find the right policy for her operation. 

“I drove to her house after hours near the crop insurance deadline and told her what the Micro Farm program offers and how it works. And we were able to identify that if we had that product one year earlier, she would’ve been able to protect her crops more,” Phil explained. “I ended up coming back the next night and got her signed up.” 

Organic Blueberries, LLC, utilizes the Micro Farm crop insurance policy. It specializes in small farmers with less than $350,000 in revenue and has proven popular among fruit and specialty crop growers. It also helps protect value-added products like jams and honey – two things Victoria sells at her farm. 

Regardless the weather, the policy gives her the peace of mind that her operation will remain financially sustainable. 

“GreenStone has been amazing,” Victoria said. “Phil simplifies everything and he knows his stuff. He makes sure we get everything we need covered. I always thought crop insurance was a luxury item, but now I see it’s a necessity.”  

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the crop insurance product work for them in a year they need help,” Phil said. “Financial challenges from Mother Nature assaults the opportunity for a farm to follow its business plan, but with a crop insurance product, it doesn’t have to.” 

Operating Organically 

Victoria’s commitment to organic growing makes her operation stand out. She decided to begin organic practices four years ago and has not looked back. 

“Becoming organic has really changed the dynamic of our farm,” Victoria said. “People have been so responsive and wonderful. People have thanked us for making this change and say there’s value in buying organic. I think becoming organic is very sustainable for not only the earth, but the future of the farm.” 

Keeping the farm around for generations to come is extremely important to Victoria. Her three grandchildren, the fifth generation of the farm, already help out. 

“To have a next generation that I can pass it down to, I want to make sure there’s enough money coming in for it to be sustainable,” Victoria explained.  

It’s not just the blueberries that are organic, but all the products sold at the farm – like her jams and honey. Victoria makes sure that all products that go into making these products live up to her organic label. 

“When I work with people on my products, I want to know everything that’s going into them before I put my name and label on it,” Victoria said. 

Future Forward 

Moving forward, Victoria and her family plan to add more blueberry plants to the property to increase their poundage. In doing so, they continue researching ways to incorporate regenerative soils into the farm to help in their sustainability effort. 

They’re also hoping to add more products like granola and blueberry syrup to their product lines and increase their branding. 

Throughout these changes, GreenStone stands ready to help finance their dreams and help protect what matters most. 

“It has been a lot of fun being a part of their farm,” Phil said. “An organic blueberry grower is kind of a unicorn, it’s unique, so seeing someone who is trying to stay small, but stay focused and being competitive in the market is really cool.”