Working for Wyman’s: Four Generations, One Maine Company

For more than a century, wild blueberries have been a way of life in Downeast Maine. For four generations of the West Family, that legacy is personal.

Adam West, 36, began raking wild blueberries before he was old enough to attend kindergarten. Now, he helps lead Wyman's, one of Maine’s oldest family businesses.
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For as long as he can remember, Wyman’s has been Frank L. West’s passport to the world beyond Downeast Maine. In summer, he’d tag along with his dad, Carroll, delivering cans of wild blueberries harvested from the barrens of Washington County to warehouses and factories down the Eastern Seaboard. When his mom, Lorraine, came along, Frank would sit on a milk crate between them. He remembers the eye-popping sights of the skyscrapers and Yankee Stadium when they’d stop in New York City. “Growing up Downeast, I’d never seen anything like it,” says West, now 61 and director of purchasing for the Milbridge-based company.

The summer road trips are just one chapter in a family history that’s been intertwined with Wyman’s for nearly a century — and is still being written. West’s grandfather, Frank E. West, began working at Wyman’s processing plant in 1933, when the company canned not only wild blueberries but also mussels and sardines, and he retired as a seal-machine operator 45 years later. His grandmother, Herma, worked on the canning-room floor for 33 years. His mother, a school teacher, worked for Wyman’s as a floor monitor during her summer breaks. His uncle, Hermie, was a supervisor in the field. West’s son, Adam, now oversees the plants in Cherryfield and Deblois.

Adam West, 36, began raking wild blueberries before he was old enough to attend kindergarten. Now, he helps lead the 148-year-old company, one of Maine’s oldest family businesses. “Working for a family-owned company is probably the best thing that could have ever happened to us,” Adam says. “They take pride in the product we put out, they give so much back to the community, and they really appreciate the work that we do.”

“There was always this sense of pride in working for Wyman’s,” Frank says. ”They were nice people who treated our family well. And I didn’t think there’d be any better place to work.”

The West family is one of thousands in Downeast Maine who have been nourished by the company that Jasper Wyman founded in 1874 and that remains in the Wyman family four generations later. The company has flourished over 148 years, growing from a scrappy little fish cannery to the largest brand of frozen fruit in the U.S. Wyman’s processes up to 2.3 million pounds of wild blueberries a day from the acres they own in Maine and hundreds of other growers for customers like General Mills, Costco, and Walmart. The company employs 200 people year-round, and more than 500 during the summer harvest. More than a third of employees have a tenure of more than a decade, and many families who come to work the harvest return year after year and generation after generation.

Frank L. West raked blueberries as a kid, and, when he was in high school, he worked for Wyman’s picking up berries from growers around the region to be processed at the plants. In 1982, shortly after graduating high school, he went to work in the Wyman’s warehouse, eventually becoming a supervisor.

In 2002, as Wyman’s expanded beyond wild blueberries and began buying a wide variety of fruits from growers around the world, Frank spearheaded the effort. Today, he travels all over the world, building relationships with farmers and packaging companies as far away as Peru.

Adam, Frank’s son, started working in Wyman’s processing plant in summers when he was 16. After his shifts at the plant, he’d head to the field to rake the fruits from the plants. After he graduated from Husson University with a degree in computer information systems, Adam joined the company full-time as an IT technician. In 2016, he became the company’s manufacturing manager.

Three of the four generations of West family members who have built their livelihoods around Wyman’s. Left: Adam West, manufacturing manager. Right: Frank West, director of purchasing. Middle: Carroll West, who retired in 1990.

Adam and Frank attribute their longevity with Wyman’s to a family-first ethos that stretches from the corporate office to the far corners of the windswept wild blueberry barrens. When Frank was a kid, that ethos meant he had a standing invitation to go swimming at Hollis Wyman’s house. When he was an adult, it meant being encouraged to kick off early so he could catch Adam’s school events and games. “My boss would always say, “Work can wait. Your kids only grow up once and you don’t want to miss it,’” Frank recalls.

With Adam now managing the processing plant, and Frank heading up purchasing, the father-son team talk business multiple times a day. But the conversation often drifts to wild blueberries and Wyman’s long after quitting time has come and gone.

“When you love what you do,” Adam says, “it’s hard to stop.”