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Blueberries for missions

Platt Springs member sells entire crop to benefit missions at church

By Jessica Connor

COLUMBIA — Some people ladle soup for the homeless. Others organize mission trips. Still others donate thousands upon thousands of dollars.

But for Susan Busby, serving God involves a white plastic bucket, her fingertips and up to six hours a day harvesting the blueberry patches on her family farm.

Busby, a member of Platt Springs United Methodist Church, Columbia, sells the entire crop of blueberries on her property and gives all the money to missions at her church. In years past, the funds have supported a church mission team that made an annual trip to Colombia. This year, the funds are helping Native American ministries at Platt Springs.

I m the Native American representative for our church and we don t have a budget, so I am very excited to see the plans and directions that God has waiting for us to discover,  Busby said.

Twenty years ago, Busby s mother planted a few blueberry patches on her land and her brother s land. They watered and pruned them, but certainly didn t think about selling them to benefit the church.

Then one day Busby learned a family in the church was selling watermelons on the side of the road, with all the proceeds benefitting the church Salkehatchie team.

I thought, ˜Well, my goodness, if John can do that and I have blueberries growing in the yard that the birds are eating, why can t I do that?  Busby said, laughing. Sure enough, it worked! 

Busby retired about six years ago, and picking blueberries has become somewhat of a relaxing hobby “ a time when she can enjoy the sunshine, commune with God and pray.

While I m out there picking, I m able to pray and listen to God, and listen to the birds and the creatures that He s put around, and trust me, I m constantly praying when I m in there, especially this summer,  she said. Snakes live out there, mosquitoes, and He s protected me from all creatures. 

This summer, she has picked mostly from her brother and sister-in-law s patches; she pruned her own patches a little too heavily last year.

The whole family is involved; it s truly a family endeavor,  she said.

Prime blueberry season runs from the latter part of May, through June and into July. During picking season, Busby is out there usually six hours a day or every other day “ two or three hours in the morning when it s cool, and again at sunset. The work is time-consuming and arduous; the berries cannot be picked until they are perfectly ripe, and they must be picked individually, never in clusters. It takes her about an hour to pick a quart of blueberries, which she sells for about $5.

They re not like tomatoes where they continue to ripen,  Busby explained. When you pick them, that s it. They re like cluster of grapes, and out of the cluster you have to individually pick one blueberry to see if it ll be released, and if does not release, then it s too early. 

Birds and deer like to eat the berries, and this year, rain was an issue. There was so much rain the berries were swelling and bursting, she said: I probably threw away at least half the crop. 

But Busby doesn t worry about that too much. She just does what feels right, spending her mornings and evenings picking blueberries for the Lord, and enjoying God s abundance in the process.

It s something that s really important to my whole family,  Busby said. I ve heard my brother say that if God gives you something, there s a reason, and He expects you to give it away. 

She likens the family blueberries to the parable of talents in Matthew 25.

The blueberries are just our talents, and look how many people and how many lives can be touched just by figuring out God really gave you that,  Busby said. And if He gives you something, He really means for you to do something with it. 

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