Goin's Blueberry Farm honored at Indiana State Fair as 'Featured Farmer'
NORTH JUDSON, Ind.,-- A Michiana blueberry farm is recognized at the Indiana State Fair this year.
Goin’s Blueberry Lane in North Judson offers u-pick and ready-pick and sells commercially packed blueberries for wholesale.
Kevin and Pat Goin have grown their blueberry farm over the last 42 years. The pair are one of only 18 farmers across the Hoosier state who are celebrated as Featured Farmers.
The program connects fairgoers each day with a farmer so people can learn more about the work and stories that are behind the food we eat. The Goin’s say they’re not sure how they got nominated by the honor but are excited to represent the community.
“Anytime we can carry the blueberry flag and the Starke County flag, it’s a good thing,” Pat Goin said. “We’re very proud to be a part of the community here and we participate in many things and to take that forward is a great honor.”
I asked the Goin’s about the state of the farm when they first bought it in 1980. They laughed.
“Pretty run-down. Actually, this right here was the woods and we took the woods down and planted it,” Kevin Goin responded as he pointed to a field of Elliott blueberries.
Today Goin’s Blueberry Lane is far from “run-down.” In the 42 years since Kevin and Pat Goin bought the farm, they’ve added an additional ten acres of fruit and swapped out the old varieties of blueberries to grow ten new varieties.
They now sell thousands of pounds of commercially packed blueberries daily to wholesale distributors throughout Indiana and Michigan. It’s no wonder they’re being recognized as a featured farmer.
What does it take to become a featured farmer? The pair weren’t quite sure.
“That’s a great question, I just don’t have an answer,” said Pat Goin. “I think for us, it’s probably a little bit of luck. I’m not sure who nominated us.”
Luck is an understatement. The family has put in years of hard work in and out of blueberry season.
“It’s blueberry season,” said Pat Goin. “It’s harvest time, but blueberry production and the work on the farm is year-round.”
They are very knowledgeable of their berries. Both Pat and Kevin are active in blueberry grower associations; Pat is currently Vice Chair of the North American Blueberry Council. Her love for blueberries started when she was only 12 years old.
“I grew up with a love for blueberries and still have a love for blueberries,” said Pat Goin. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding. I used to go down to my cousin’s farm in De Motte and spend my summers there. I like to say that I picked berries. I wasn’t a great berry-picker back then.”
With all of their experience and expertise, I asked Pat what constitutes a perfect pick.
“You want to find berries that are good and blue and berries with a powdery-like substance over it,” said Pat Goin. “It’s called ‘bloom.’ that means it’s nice and fresh; it’s not overripe. So, those are good, and that’s good for commercial pack as well. You want a nice, firm berry, nothing soft.”
The two may be honored by the Indiana State Fair but the Goins are most honored to represent the community. Serving the community is a blessing to these blueberry growers as they continue to serve familiar faces each and every summer.
“Seeing our repeat customers, the people that just left now, said ‘this is our fifth generation,’” said Pat Goin. “We have a lot of repeat people that come in, so we’ve known their grandparents and parents and now their kids and grandkids. And it’s just always nice to see that, along with new people as well.”
While the Goins enjoy serving the community, their favorite memories involve family.
One of their daughters is a school principal in the area and helps in the summers, and their other daughter comes up from Indianapolis to help when she can.
And the Goins are keeping blueberry lane alive with the next generation through their grandchildren.
“And our grandkids, the older grandson helps out, does a lot of the mowing and that kind of stuff, and the granddaughters help their grandmother in the shed, selling the fruit,” said Kevin Goin.
“It’s just a good family farm, and we take pride in that,” said Pat Goin.
The Goins will be grand marshalls in the fair’s parade and will meet with various organizations throughout the day.