Blueberry farm gives back

HELPING OTHERS: Ridley Bell, of Mountain Blue Farms .
HELPING OTHERS: Ridley Bell, of Mountain Blue Farms . Rocco Pirrottina - Distant Light

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 to produce for some of the world's poorest communities.

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

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

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.

"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 more than 1000 tonnes in five years. As production has grown, so have economic opportunities, with about 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.

"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."

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

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