Oct 18, 2019Blueberry grower, former USHBC council member Monterde dies at 77
Blueberry grower and former U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) council member Luis Melvio Monterde died Sept. 26 at age 77 in Lumberton, Mississippi.
Born Feb. 19, 1942, in Banes, Cuba, Monterde came to the U.S. in 1959. He became a heavy-duty diesel technician and worked for several years in that field. In 1968, he joined the staff at Bass Memorial Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist Church boarding high school in Lumberton, and dedicated his life to the academy’s staff and students.
Planting his first blueberry bushes in 1980, Monterde went on to establish B&M Blueberry Farm and B&M Imports, and was one of the first farmers in Mississippi to grow blueberries commercially. Working closely with researchers at Mississippi State University’s (MSU) South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville, he helped pioneer the state’s blueberry industry and was a founding leader of the Miss-Lou Blueberry Growers Co-Op.
“Luis essentially started the entire commercial blueberry industry for Mississippi and Louisiana. At the time, in the early 1980s, blueberries were grown here only as a hobby,” notes Tim Goggins, grower and president of Miss-Lou Blueberry Co-op. “Luis’ imagination saw an economic development opportunity and through his diligence and tact, he built the first regional modern commercial packing shed. Over time, he also designed and patented a box frozen blueberry processing line.
“Luis enjoyed helping and teaching others to establish blueberry ranches throughout the Gulf Coast region. He was instrumental in providing input and feedback to USDA-ARS research on developing other types of rabbiteye blueberry varieties,” Goggins added. “Although the blueberry industry has seen many challenges, Miss-Lou continues to survive due to Luis’ initiative, sound judgment and meticulous attention to processing quality berries. His high professional standards, resourcefulness, devotion to the growers and outstanding ability reflects great credit upon himself, his family and all Miss-Lou blueberry growers.”
Monterde served on the board of directors of Lamar County Farm Bureau and was a dedicated county board member for many years. He was also a vice president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Horticulture Commodity Advisory Committee, a member of the MFBF Labor Committee, past president of Miss-Lou Blueberry Growers Cooperative and a member of the board of directors of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.
A memorial service is planned for March 28, 2020, in Lumberton, Mississippi.