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HISTORY of CZAIKA’S BLUEBERRY FARM
In the early 1950’s Joe and Donna Czaika bought land south of Tawas City and west of US-23. After clearing some of the land by hand during evenings, weekends, and holidays, Joe and his son, Joe Jr. planted (cultivated, not wild) blueberry bushes. The bushes in the front two-thirds of the present farm are the very same root stock of the bushes they originally planted.
At the time, highway M-46 was considered the general northern limit for cultivated blueberries, except near large bodies of water. In the 1970’s Joe Sr. became a test farmer for Michigan State University’s blueberry studies. Of the nearly 50 varieties of blueberries Joe Sr. tested, only four survived this far north. Over the years, Joe Sr. has had between 3 and 6 acres planted with combinations of the 4 viable varieties he tested plus some varieties which have been developed more recently.
Czaika’s Blueberry Farm has always been a family business. Joe Jr. continued to help his dad in the fields. Also, he and his two oldest sisters, Sharon and Janet, would pick, clean, and package blueberries for sale in local stores and to neighbors. As the 3 oldest kids (Sharon, Joe, and Janet) went off to college and/or married, the farm became strictly U-Pick with the youngest sib, Lynne, tending the till until she, too, went off to college.
Through the years, Opening Day has become a working family reunion. Currently Joe and Donna’s kids and spouses, grandkids and spouses, and great grandkids all pitch in.
Donna passed on in 1999 and Joe Sr. in 2003 at age 85. In May 2004 Joe Jr. (now just Joe) and his wife Sharon retired to Tawas to continue the family farm.