MOUNT CRAWFORD — Growing up, Tom Pack always liked to pick fresh blueberries to make pie, so much so that he founded his own blueberry farm in southeast Rockingham County more than 30 years ago.
When Pack bought the farm in the 1980s, the house on the property was built into a hill, which reminded him of The Shire from his favorite book series, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”
“It seemed natural to call it Hobbit Hill,” he said.
At the time, blueberries were harder to find, according to Pack, before grocery store chains began selling berries year-round.
To Pack, nothing tastes better than a freshly grown blueberry.
“They’re just much tastier and much juicier,” he said. “They have a real flavor and aroma.”
Hobbit Hill Farm is located at 6460 Showalter Road. Although the address is Mount Crawford, the farm is 1 mile east of Cross Keys Vineyard on East Timber Ridge Road, nearly centered between Weyers Cave, Grottoes and Port Republic.
Hobbit Hill grows three distinct varieties of blueberries: blue jay, blue ray and patriot. Pack said the blue ray variety has a brighter, more tart flavor, while the patriot variety tends to taste sweeter. The blue jay’s taste is somewhere in between those two.
“The differences are very subtle, but you will be able to tell a difference if you pick and taste,” he said.
The blueberry farm has a relatively short season of about two weeks and three weekends. Hobbit Hill began offering pick-your-own blueberries on Sunday.
This year has been an excellent season for blueberries, Pack said, due to the very wet spring.
“Blueberries are wet plants that grow in and out of soggy areas,” he explained. “They love a very wet environment. There’s nothing like natural rain to really make them grow. It’s been an exceptional year, not only in the amount of blueberries but in the growth and quality of the plants.”
Five years ago, Pack’s daughter, Haley Coloso, began helping to restore the patch after it had become overgrown while the family was busy with life. She said she “ended up falling in love” with the blueberry farm and continues to improve the patch each year.
Hobbit Hill Farm prides itself in being certified organic through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Without the use of pesticides, the blueberries can be eaten right off the branches.
“We think being able to taste and eat straight from the bush is part of the experience. I think it’s pretty special,” Coloso said. “We don’t put anything on our plants. The berries are only touched by rain and sunshine.”
The farm went a few years without USDA organic certification, although farming practices haven’t changed.
“We’ve been using organic practices for at least 20 years,” Coloso said.
And because of that, the farm has attracted a native swarm of honey bees, a species that is declining worldwide.
Hobbit Hill has maintained its USDA organic certification for the last two years and plans to continue in the years ahead.
“It gives assurance that we have a top quality product that’s nutritious and tasty,” Pack said.
On Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, Hobbit Hill will host its second annual pop-up farmers market, an event that brings together several local producers from the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County area. Coloso said they wanted to show support for other small businesses.
“It was a great success, so we decided to make it an annual event,” she said. “Everyone coming is really small growers and makers. Ones you wouldn’t find at other markets.”
Hobbit Hill will be selling homemade blueberry baked goods featuring its own blueberries. The blueberry field will also be open for picking. The farm charges $6 per pound.
The other pop-up farmers market vendors include Thistle Haven Farm, a floral grower, Shenandoah Handmade, which sells embroidered home goods, and The Lovely Lark, a jewelry and home decor business.
Bee advocate Tom Knapp, of Knapp’s Bees, will have an observation hive on display along with other educational information.
Countryside Garage Band, a group of retired James Madison University professors and musicians, will play oldies, folk and blues music from 10 a.m. to noon.
Hobbit Hill Farm is open most days of the week, however, hours change on a weekly basis. Check www.hobbithillfarm.com for more information.