Stanley Johnston, a young horticulturist stationed at the Michigan State University experiment station in South Haven, MI, after hearing about a new industry taking root in New Jersey, began experimenting in the 1920s with what was then referred to as cultivated blueberries. He finally convinced a Chicago dentist vacationing nearby to jointly take on a commercial highbush blueberry planting project and a burgeoning industry was born.
Several others in the area soon joined in planting this new crop, but grew concerned about how they would market their blueberries profitably. Stanley urged and guided them to consider the cooperative method of marketing. On November 2, 1936, thirteen enterprising blueberry farmers organized themselves as Michigan Blueberry Growers Association, now known as MBG Marketing (MBG).
MBG’s grower membership grew exponentially from there as this new crop was planted all along the Lake Michigan shores of western Michigan. Grower membership then expanded to include Indiana blueberry growers in the late 1940s. Georgia and Florida producers were invited to join the cooperative in 1983, greatly expanding the geographic diversity, varieties of berries grown, and adding a new base of growers. MBG expanded internationally in 2006, with membership in British Columbia, Canada, providing a quality blueberry foothold to service provincial retailers and others. In 2009, the coop successfully added several North Carolina growers to the membership roster after a long-time market affiliation.
Recognizing MBG’s success in fresh market expansion, growers from the Pacific northwestern states of Oregon and Washington began to come on board in 2013, expanding both the coop’s organic and conventional berry portfolio. Shortly thereafter, in 2014, after a long courtship, MBG added a significant share of the New Jersey production base to membership. This now afforded the cooperative coast-to-coast blueberry production in the marketplace, coming full circle from that very early competition between the pioneering industries of New Jersey and Michigan.
In 2017, MBG admitted its first Georgia blackberry growers to cooperative membership, adding another complimentary berry product to the fresh market basket offered by MBG’s grower-owned marketer, Naturipe Farms.
MBG Marketing’s 200+ cooperative members today represent the best in the professional blueberry and blackberry farming communities across North America and include many multi-generational growers, each with their own experience, vision and passion for this business.