By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend
There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.
NAME: Dr. Paul Becker
DAY JOB: Associate professor of mathematics, Penn State Behrend
HOBBY/SECOND JOB: Blueberry farmer
FARM: Blue Confusion blueberry farm, 8911 Old French Road
Three seasons of the year, Dr. Paul Becker teaches calculus and algebra and other mathematics courses at Penn State Behrend. Come summer, however, he’s in the blueberry business.
He didn’t mean to be. The job sort of came with the property that he and his wife, Sharon, bought eight years ago on Old French Road in Summit Township.
“When we bought the house they told us there was a blueberry farm in back,” he said. “But it was March and there was three feet of snow on the ground. We had no idea it was as large as it was.”
When all the snow melted, they discovered 866 blueberry bushes.
Customers begged them to keep the farm open.
“Some families have been picking here for almost 40 years,” he said. “We have one family that drives from Cleveland every summer to carry on the blueberry picking tradition.”
Becker and his wife consulted with the Penn State Extension Center who taught them how to prune, fertilize, and care for the five-acre farm, which they named Blue Confusion.
When the berries ripen in late July, the public is invited to pick their own baskets of berries. Becker, his wife, and their five-year-old son, Logan, work in a small shed out back, weighing the berries and collecting money.
Becker says selling is the easy part. The pruning, fertilizing, and mowing require more physical work.
“Pruning begins in early spring and goes until early summer,” he said. “And the mowing takes eight hours. I use the tractor between rows, but I have to use the push mower to get under each bush.”
Lest you think he might trade his faculty ID for barn boots and overalls, you should know it’s not a very lucrative business. Becker says they typically break even, but he’s not in it for the money.
“It’s a hobby, really,” he says.
HOW HE LIKES HIS BERRIES: “I like them fresh on top of a bowl of cornflakes,” Becker said. “And we make a lot of blueberry pancakes and muffins here, too.”
Becker with his son, Logan, and dog, Bo.
*** Do you have a suggestion for a candidate for a future Secret Lives of Faculty/Staff feature? Email hjc13 at psu.edu.