Finding Thrill on Blueberry Hill

Linda Stritzel finds a bush loaded with blueberries as she picks a few quarts at Don Dauster’s farm on Monday morning. Stritzel helps Dauster at Huckleberry Hollow, located at 1712 Sycamore Lane (Highway PP) south of St. Clair. The farm has a bumper crop of blueberries this year, and they should be available for another two to three weeks.

The name on the sign may say Huckleberry Hollow, but make no mistake about it, it’s blueberry time there — en masse.

After suffering through a 2012 that featured nothing to pick, Don Dauster said he has a bumper crop of blueberries this year at his farm south of St. Clair. In fact, he said he has more blueberries available this year than ever before.

“It’s definitely a bumper crop,” Dauster told The Missourian earlier this week at Huckleberry Hollow, 1712 Sycamore Lane (Highway PP). “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had more berries than this year.”

A late frost coupled with extreme heat ruined Dauster’s crop last year. But, this year’s cool, wet spring has led not only to a plethora of berries, but larger and sweeter berries as well.

“They just kept growing and getting bigger this year,” said Linda Stritzel, who visits Huckleberry Hollow almost daily to assist Dauster. “We’ve got so many berries we can hardly keep up.”

Stritzel, who picks blueberries for individuals who may not want to pick their own, said so far, in about two weeks, she has picked more than 200 quarts of blueberries this season. She estimated that overall, more than 1,000 quarts have been picked.

“And there’s more where that came from,” she said.

Dauster has about 2.5 acres of blueberry bushes and about 2,500 total bushes.

“It’s the best crop I’ve ever had,” Dauster said. “I’ll have berries for at least three more weeks.”

Traditionally, Stritzel said the blueberry season lasts from about Father’s Day to Independence Day.

“But we’ll still have them for quite a while,” she said.

Dauster said his berries are grown naturally with no sprays or chemicals used.

“You can eat them right off the plant,” he said.

His farm is open from 7 a.m. to dusk daily. Blueberries sell for $3 per quart.

Dauster lives on the property and runs the business from an outdoor office next to the berry bushes.

The “office” includes nothing more than a table and buckets — under a tree with a curved trunk.

“I planted that tree when I started,” Dauster said.

He then pointed to the bend in the trunk.

“That’s from me leaning on it for so many years.”

Dauster said he has several customers who drive from St. Louis to pick his berries. He said he even has some people who come from Illinois.

“I think they’re the best berries around,” he said.

Huckleberry Hollow is located about 1.5 miles south of St. Clair on Highway PP.