Blue Ridge Growers was Jill’s vision to use a section of their 40-acre farm that she and her husband, Dennis purchased in late 1991 to produce a pick-your-own fruit crop for others to enjoy. Located in Troy township, between Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin, the blueberry U-Pick began with soil preparation and planting of 100 blueberry bushes in 1993, featuring 3 popular varieties for the upper Midwest.
Blue Ridge Growers is the oldest blueberry U-pick in St. Croix County and currently, customers pick from nearly 800 bushes, now featuring six varieties (various berry sizes and flavors). Tart or sour cherries are also available with limited picking available. She follows organic production guidelines as a “non-certified” producer. Jill is an avid believer in organic growing practices, influenced by celebrating the first Earth Day in 1970 as an event organizer on the EKU campus.
The orchard sits on a bluff overlooking the rich agricultural land of the Mann Valley. Customers and families enjoy the rustic, rural setting “in the country” away from the noises and distractions of daily life to embrace nature and solitude. Outside tables are available on-site for a quick bring-your-own snack or lunch, and customers are required to “take away” their own trash. Sandbox is popular among young children, and hiking is encouraged through the meadow of wildflowers and herbs and the ridge behind the cottage barn. It is a fun learning experience for children to view the sheep and donkeys outside their nearby pasture. Someday Jill may get a colorful peacock!
Corriedales, a breed with excellent properties for wearable wool garments, yarn, and spinning, traveled by way of Iowa from Nebraska in 2016. Namely, Katy Mae, Charlotte, Lily, Darby, and Snow White. Later Rambo, our ram, came from a sheep farm outside Westbend, Wisc. Energetic and funky Border Leicesters were purchased from the Thompson family sheep farm outside Woodville, Wisc., in recent years. The Borders are used for “no-kill” or vegan rugs, featuring long and curly fiber staples that are wet felted to a backing of Corriedale or Finn sheep fiber.
Maggie, the miniature donkey, and her sidekick (no pun intended), Linda, a standard donkey that joined the farm in 2021. Jill had the good fortune of growing up in rural central Ohio on a donkey farm, the oldest daughter and second to her big brother, Joe, in a family that grew to eight children. Frank and Kitty Barthen never had a dull moment while raising a large family and being the home to over 150 donkeys for the family business of donkey ball! Dennis and Jill transported the donkeys from Jill’s youngest brother Pat and Linda’s farm, the most recent owners of Buckeye Donkeyball.