U-pick blueberry farm could close after insurance company cancels policy

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. -- After nearly 40 years in operation, a small, you-pick-them  blueberry farm might have to close its doors.

Penryn Farm asks for donations from berry pickers, but the farm owner said his insurance company told him that makes the berry patch a business and that it would have to cancel his homeowner's policy.

Every day, families show up early to get first pick at the blueberries. The 3-acre blueberry patch sits on private property. Bob Fink and his wife live there.

“We didn’t buy the property as a blueberry farm,” said Fink. “We bought it because we wanted to live here.”

Pickers operate on the honor system and the suggested donation is $2 per pound, but it’s not required.

“Not everybody leaves money,” said Fink.

Fink said his insurer, State Farm, canceled his policy last month, claiming the farm is a business even though last year he took in only $4,000 in donations. Fink said that figure barely covers maintenance.

“Think of it, what businesses don’t have a website, don’t advertise?” he asked.

Now some pickers worry Penryn Farm’s days are numbered.

“To me, that’s not a business -- that’s a community effort for Lake Stevens,” said Jenifer Hozail.

Fink thinks he's found a solution by only inviting neighbors and friends to the property. After being around for nearly four decades, that likely means nearly everyone in Lake Stevens.

State Farm Insurance told Q13 Fox News in a statement that they directed Fink to other insurers that specialize in farm insurance.

The full statement reads:

"Due to our company privacy policy we cannot speak to the specifics of any particular underwriting decision. Multiple factors are considered when underwriting a homeowner’s insurance policy. Every policy has its own unique circumstance and is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.


Here at State Farm we work hard to accurately evaluate a customer’s risk because it is in the best interest of all of our customers to be properly insured. When a new risk associated with an insurance policy becomes evident, we have to re-evaluate the customer’s specific circumstances.

It is important for consumers to know that there are things a Homeowner policy covers and things that it does not. Generally, business operations are not covered in a Homeowner policy.

A decision to non-renew a customer’s insurance policy is never made lightly because we absolutely value the relationships we have with our policyholders. Sometimes, the customer has an opportunity to remain insured with State Farm if certain underwriting criteria are met. Alternatively, as the customer indicated in an article in The Herald on July 2nd, there are other options available in the marketplace.

'The letter from State Farm didn’t give Fink an option to upgrade his policy but offered to direct him to other insurers that handle farm insurance, he said. He doesn’t want to switch and pay higher rates, but he’ll do so if it’s the only option, he said.'

Customers do have choices when seeking proper insurance coverage for business operations."

Pickers hope State Farm changes its tune, and instead welcomes what Fink calls a public service.

“Community is as important, if not more important, than your bottom line,” said Hozail.