Mountain Blue Farms founder Ridley Bell playing traditional drums in northern Uganda.
Mountain Blue Farms founder Ridley Bell playing traditional drums in northern Uganda. Marnie Johnston

How local blueberries are saving lives across the world

A LOCAL blueberry company has joined forces with World Vision to transform the lives of farmers across the globe.

In partnership with World Vision and Coles, Mountain Blue Farms will donate five cents from every blueberry punnet sold in Coles towards helping farmers to improve soil quality, irrigation and boost yield in order to produce enough food for some of the world's poorest communities.

History of our blueberry

Mountain Blue founder Ridley Bell, from Lindendale, first introduced the blueberry to Australia in 1976 showcasing the fruit, which he had grown in a Melbourne research centre, in the Victorian Produce Markets.

"People had no idea what they were," he said.

"They had never seen blueberries before."

Since then, Mr Bell has been perfecting the blueberry and his Eureka variety is now farmed across the globe.

But as his fortunes have grown, he has quietly sought to give back to the community.

Giving back to the community

"Mountain Blue has been at the forefront of blueberry innovation in Australia for four decades," World Vision CEO Tim Costello said.

"But the innovation has not only been on the farm but in the form of social innovation where the Bells are helping communities both on their doorstep and across the world."

Blueberry production has grown from 60 tonnes to over 1000 tonnes in just five years.

As production has grown so too have the economic opportunities with around 1000 pickers and packers to help deliver this year's harvest.

"I have seen with my business how a farm can not only provide income for my family but opportunities for many others," Mr Bell said.

Working with World Vision

"When I visited World Vision's projects, I saw farmers doing back-breaking work and struggling to generate enough income to support their family.

"But with the right support to improve their soil quality, infrastructure and yield, these farmers can not only provide for their families but deliver jobs and opportunities for their entire community to escape poverty."

Coles General Manager Fresh Produce, Brad Gorman said:

"Our customers loved Eureka blueberries last year and we're really excited to have the unique blueberry variety back in season and available for our customers to not only enjoy but also support such a worthy cause.

"Coles is proud to work alongside innovative Australian growers like Mountain Blue Farms to help them grow their business and organisations like World Vision to support communities around the world."

Mountain Blue has already funded more than $1.2 million in World Vision projects in northern Uganda, upgrading teacher accommodation and maternal and child health facilities to help save the lives of women and children.

The Bell family also gives generously in their local community of Lismore by supporting a homeless shelter and soup kitchen.

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