Being involved in the huckleberry industry, we always keep our ear to the ground to gauge the success of the huckleberry harvest. Because we work with huckleberry producers, we are concerned when those producers are struggling with summer conditions. Last year’s crop seemed to be pretty good — going well into September. The cost of fresh-picked huckleberries actually stayed steady towards the end of the season.
Not true this year. Between the extreme heat, lack of rain, and wildfires, a good patch of huckleberries seemed challenging to find. Although some areas experience an abundance of large huckleberries, that was not the norm for most areas.
The Spokane Review interviewed a few north Idaho commercial huckleberry producers (some that we have worked with in the past). Here is how they described their situation:
(Commercial producer) is not expecting to get many — if any at all — berries this year from its independent pickers. Huckleberries the company usually buys from a major food service supplier are also in very limited supply.
… If the region’s huckleberry crop from this year to next doesn’t catch up, consumers and commercial producers can expect prices to skyrocket for both raw berries and anything containing them.
The situation over the border in western Montana is reporting similar conditions. The Whitefish Pilot shares the following information:
Veterans of the huckleberry industry are expecting a shorter-than-usual picking season due to hot, dry weather, while increased demand has pushed up prices for the elusive and popular berries.
… There aren’t as many berries to go around as there have been in past summers, but the berries themselves seem to be in great shape, …
I currently work with one of the oldest huckleberry producers in Idaho: Gem Berry Products. Started by two couples over 25 years ago and is now run by the only living owner. At his advanced age, I wonder if the shortage of berries will force him and other smaller companies to close their doors.
Without berries, commercial producers will be challenged. I would hate to see all those nice huckleberry products sold in retail outlets around the area disappear.