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Carbondale News - Carbondale, PA
  • Unique services offered at Blueberry Hill Farm Greenhouses

  • John Mustica, co-owner of Blueberry Hill Farm Greenhouses, has something to help chase away the winter doldrums: fresh, crisp, tasty lettuce!
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  • The calendar claims that February is the shortest month, but this winter it really does seem like it's the longest.
    Ice, snow, and sub-zero wind chills leave one yearning for a sign of spring, a breath of warm air carrying the scent of new life, or a splash of color in a world of white lawns and barren branches.
    John Mustica, co-owner of Blueberry Hill Farm Greenhouses, has something to help chase away the winter doldrums: fresh, crisp, tasty lettuce!
    Mustica was looking for a way to utilize his greenhouses in the off-season, and also for a way to bring something fresh to the winter table.
    He had been toying with the idea of planting lettuce in one of the greenhouses at his family's business, and decided to give it a shot this year to see if people would be interested. He planted 2000 pots of lettuce, and was happy to discover that people are very interested.
    "We put it on Facebook, and the response has been amazing! I'm going to plant twice as much next year," remarked Mustica.
    In fact, the response has been so positive that this summer Mustica plans to construct a new greenhouse dedicated to the wintertime cultivation of lettuce and other vegetables.
    What makes Blueberry Hill Farm lettuce so good?
    "There are no sprays, no chemicals, you pick it yourself, and you take exactly what kind and how much you want. You can't get any fresher than that," commented Mustica.
    Mustica's mother, Eileen, further explained, "We have red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, and romaine. People can pick the whole head, or just pick individual leaves. They can mix and match types if they want. We give them a bag, and for $3, they fill it up."
    According to a 2005 study by the University of California, lettuce is the leading vegetable crop in the United States.
    More than 90 percent of the lettuce grown in this country is produced in the Salinas Valley of central California (from April through October) and in Yuma, Arizona and the Imperial Valley of southern California (from November through March).
    In other words, most of the lettuce available for purchase in the supermarket was harvested several days prior to reaching the store. It traveled over 2,500 miles in the back of a truck to reach northeastern Pennsylvania. It may have been sitting in the supermarket for days before being purchased. And it has been handled by many different people on its journey from field to salad bowl.
    At Blueberry Hill Farm, the customer chooses, harvests, transports, and stores the lettuce. As Mustica said, you can't get fresher than that!
    An interest in fresh, healthy foods prompts many people to grow their own vegetables during the summer.
    Page 2 of 2 - Mustica said, "Vegetable plant sales have skyrocketed in the past six or seven years. I plan to start 30,000 tomato plants in the spring. People have been more interested in gardening with the downturn in the economy. Plus, they want to know exactly what they're eating these days."
    In the spring, Blueberry Hill Farm Greenhouses carries many varieties of vegetable seedlings and herbs that are garden-ready for customers interested in growing their own fresh food.
    According to Mustica, the weeks leading up to Memorial Day are his busiest time as people purchase flowers to plant at home and in cemeteries and buy vegetable plants for their home gardens.
    Even though snow still blankets the ground, Eileen and her son have already planted thousands of seeds and cuttings, and have begun preparing hanging baskets and planters, in anticipation of the busy days of May.
    Blueberry Hill Farm Greenhouses is a family-owned and operated business. Located at 91 Buffalo Road just outside Forest City, the business was founded by Eileen and her late husband, John Sr., in 1985. Sadly, John Sr. passed away in 1994, leaving his wife and children to oversee the family business.
    "This was my husband's dream, and although he died too soon, at least he got to see his dream become a reality," said Eileen.
    John and Eileen's three children, John Jr., Diane, and Cindy, worked diligently to keep their father's dream alive, expanding the business to its current size with eight greenhouses.
    Sorrow struck the Mustica family again in 2004 when Diane tragically passed away, but the family found the strength to continue the business, now with the added help of several grandchildren.
    "I have eight grandchildren and they all help, even the littlest one. All the kids grew up helping here," said Eileen with a smile, her love for her family evident in her voice.
    Blueberry Hill Farm Greenhouses is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. until dark. Customers can pull into the driveway in front of the red barn and beep the horn for assistance, or they may call ahead at 570-785-3491 and someone will be awaiting their arrival. Freshly picked lettuce in the dead of winter is certainly a treat not to be missed!

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