solutions of horticultural problems, with-
out which I never could have undertaken
the blueberry work.”
Elizabeth and her father had often
talked about the possibility of growing berries. Cranberries (Vaccinium
Macrocarpon) and highbush blueberries
(Vaccinium Corymbosum) both prosper
in the acidic, sandy soil of South Jersey.
Blueberries ripen in summer, cranberries
in the fall. A blueberry crop would expand
the growing season of the farm. Wild berries grew plentifully at Whitesbog on the
hummocks between the bogs and in the
surrounding woods, but blueberries had
proven difficult to tame.
Then, in 1910, Elizabeth came across
She would assist with his research.
USDA Bulletin #193, “Experiments in
Blueberry Culture,” written by Fred-
erick V. Coville, a chief botanist at the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. After
reading about Coville’s experiments with
blueberry cultivation in New Hampshire,
Elizabeth persuaded her father to offer
test fields at Whitesbog to the botanist.
Coville accepted the invitation, and thus
began the partnership that culminated in
the commercial blueberry.
The Whites signed a contract with
the USDA, which gave them the right to
half of the propagating material during
its four years of testing. At the end of
that period, it became the property of J. J.
Coville was not a farmer and Elizabeth
was not a scientist. But they were alike in
their tenacity and curiosity. Aside from
the land, Elizabeth and New Jersey could
provide something else Coville needed:
superior bushes to hybridize.
Elizabeth—a “true child of the pines
Miss Lizzie, as the pickers called her,
and cranberry bogs,” as she called her-
self—knew the woods and fields around
Whitesbog. More importantly, she knew
the local people who picked wild blueber-
ries to sell—a key part of the Pine Barrens
economy. She printed flyers to enlist
local woodsmen to help find the best wild
bushes. She furnished each picker with a
simple kit: an aluminum gauge for sizing
the berries; jars with formalin to preserve
the fruit; and wooden plant labels to
mark the bushes.
paid $1 to $3 for marking any bush that
boasted big enough berries, and paid
them again to guide her to the bushes.
Elizabeth and her guides traveled the
sand roads by horse and buggy. She had
the greatest respect for their woodland
skills, recalling that in finding herself
“in some pathless thicket where all the
bushes look alike to me… my guide will
say, ‘That there bush was right around
here; that’s the tree I broke—there it is
now’; and they will show me my little
labels, some of them carefully covered
up at the base of the stems so that no one
may find and move them.”
Bushes were named for their finders:
Sam, Grover, Harding, Haines. The best
bush of all was found by one Rube Leek.
Deciding that neither name would suit
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