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Blueberry Extravaganza connects Maine’s crops to community

October 21, 2022

Lilli Frank
BLUE-BERRY SUSTAINABLE: On Friday, members of the community gathered in Smith Union to celebrate blueberries, their pollinators and the sustainable practices that will protect them.

Last Friday, members of the Bowdoin community gathered in a bustling Smith Union for the Blueberry Extravaganza. The event intended to educate students about pollination, sustainability, general wellness and, of course, blueberries—one of Maine’s most important crops.

Wyman’s—one of the largest growers and sellers of wild blueberries in the world—joined the festivities along with representatives from the Bowdoin Organic Garden (BOG), Sustainable Bowdoin and Bowdoin Counseling and Wellness Services. Together they provided programming that included educating about pollinators and native blueberry plants through giveaways and displays and getting feedback about BOG initiatives to come.

“We’re here promoting the goodness of wild blueberries, what makes them different from cultivated blueberries and also promoting pollinator health within our habitats and ecosystems,” Wyman’s employee Collin Jay said.

Wild blueberries are smaller than ordinary blueberries, but they have a stronger flavor, twice as many antioxidants and only grow along the coasts of Maine and Eastern Canada. Due to the scarcity of the wild blueberry’s habitat, Wyman’s is focused on preserving the environment and the pollinators that allow the blueberries to grow.

“It’s really important to make sure that we’re not destroying habitats. It’s not just bees,” Jay said. “Moths, flies, beetles [and] even bats can be pollinators.We’re doing a lot of different efforts right now to help promote that with things like this.”

One of the ways Wyman’s strives to protect pollinators is through the Bee Wild Mobile, a pollination education station and blueberry haven on wheels.

“We travel around New England promoting what we believe in and what we think is right for the health of the ecosystem,” Jay said.

At Friday’s event, Wyman’s representatives handed out flyers with fun facts and activities about blueberries and pollinators. They also offered a variety of blueberry and bee pins and jars of wild blueberry jam for students to enjoy.

The BOG used last Friday’s event to promote the pollinator bed it plans to install in the spring and asked students to vote on which native plants they would like the bed to include.

Sustainable Bowdoin brought a focus on human environmental impact to the event, since the Extravaganza was also a celebration of “Halfway to Earth Day.” Its presence at the event was part of a larger effort to engage with the student body about mindful consumption and energy use.

“We’re trying to reduce our carbon emissions across campus and also support national and global efforts to be more eco friendly and sustainable as a whole, and it starts with our local community,” first year Eco Rep Nina Fearon ’26 said.

Bowdoin Counseling and Wellness Services connected the health of the environment to personal well-being by advertising some new services it offers to all enrolled students.

“We have direct connection to a couple of recent telehealth and online platforms that we’re partnering with,” Director of Counseling and Wellness Services Dr. Roland Mendiola said.

Assistant Director of Student Activities Eunice Shin was excited by the intersectionality of the event.

“My goal when I first envisioned this event was to provide another fun [way] for students to interact with these departments and also really see how interconnected these offices are, because I think that’s something not a lot of students get to see all the time,” Shin said. “Behind the curtains, we’re always constantly working together to provide a lot of fun activities.”

Wyman’s and the three Bowdoin groups present at last Friday’s event helped students understand the nuanced connections between agriculture, pollinators, the environment and themselves.

“We obviously want pollinators to be plentiful and healthy within Maine to help wild blueberries grow,” Jay said, “It comes down to the health of other Maine crops, like potatoes, or crops in general throughout New England, … to make sure that our ecosystem is maintaining its health.”


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