Feb. 24, 2012. ZIONVILLE — Author, poet, and former blueberry grower Jim Minick visited Mabel Elementary Friday sharing stories and photos of the people, places, animals, and events that have shaped his life and inspired his writing. His visit took place in the school’s media center, where he donated his time for separate sessions with the third and eighth grade classes at Mabel.
In the first of his presentations, Minick spoke to the school’s third graders about growing, harvesting, and selling blueberries from the organic blueberry farm that his family operated in Virginia. His presentation – anchored by a Power Point slide show – included photos of family members, family dogs, farm customers, and (of course) lots of blueberries. The farm’s first customer was a neighbor, but the clientele eventually expanded to include people from across a large swath of Virginia, from “all walks of life and all religions,” and occasional visitors from distant states and other countries.
Minick’s visit with third graders included his reading of the 1948 children’s book “Blueberries for Sal,” a time for questions and answers, and the serving of a pudding that featured an organic blueberry topping. Several student questions were about the family’s three dogs, and Minick said that one dog could manage to find blueberries by scent alone after he became blind. The author also spoke of the birds and the bees, noting that blueberries are “bite size for a bird” and that a lot of the pollination of the blueberry bushes was performed by bumblebees. “Sometimes there were so many bumblebees it was just loud,” he commented, and apparently all that buzzing yielded large harvests as well as loud sounds: the farm produced about 7,000 pounds of blueberries in a peak year.
The author began his visit with Mabel’s eighth graders as part of the audience for two student presentations. Mabel’s eighth graders completed individual photo heritage projects last fall about their families and how the families used their land, and two of the students presented their projects to Minick and their fellow eighth graders. The student presentations were followed by the author’s Power Point slideshow about his family’s organic blueberry farm and by discussion about where our food comes from and how it is produced.
Raised on a dairy farm in the small town of Newburg, Pennsylvania (population 300), Minick’s life experiences have given him a keen appreciation for the hard work and physical realities of farm life. He also acquired and honed a poet’s talent for discerning the details of everyday happenings and the larger patterns and context that give them meaning.
Minick described his most recent book The Blueberry Years, A Memoir of Farm and Family as “the final fruit” of the blueberry farm, which was sold in the early 2000’s. The book was named Best Nonfiction Book of the Year by the Southern Independent Booksellers Association. In addition to The Blueberry Years, Minick has also authored a collection of essays and two books of poetry. His work has appeared in ten different publications and he has been awarded honors from numerous arts groups and from Radford University, where he currently teaches writing and literature courses. More information about the author and his work is available at www.jim-minick.com.
On his website, Minick says “I’ve always loved to write” and that “I’ve had the great fortune to live in the Appalachian Mountains all my life,” statements that show he is a natural choice for helping local students appreciate the connections between the classroom experience of literature and the real world experiences of daily life. Minick came to Mabel at the invitation of the school’s Technology Facilitator Shannon Carroll.
Mabel Elementary School serves 189 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and is rated a School of Distinction by the NC Department of Public Instruction.
From: Watauga County Schools