Fruit lovers seeking fresh blueberries are in luck as local growers are reporting ample harvests this season.
Farmer Julian Wooten said the weather this year was perfect for growing blueberries.
“The plants made it through the winter just fine,” Wooten said. “It’s good blueberry weather. Temperatures are a little hot now, but it’s good when it’s hot. Our berries shaped up pretty good and they are at their peak right now.”
Wooten and his wife are operate Southwest Berry Farm at 2053 Pony Farm Road, located in the Southwest area of Jacksonville. Right now, Wooten says the farm’s blueberry and blackberry crops are beginning to produce eatable fruit.
“Our season started a little late,” Wooten said. “Our blueberries are pretty right now, and we just started picking them. We don’t have a large batch of blackberries yet, but a few plants are ripe enough to pick. Families are welcome to come pick all they want. We also let people sample as many berries as they would like while they are out in the fields.”
Prices to pick your own berries cost $3 a pint. Pints already picked are $4 each, according to Wooten.
Caitlin Lasserty, manager of Mike’s Farm in Beulaville, said they planted blueberries earlier in February and hope to have a similar pick-your-own-berry opportunities in the next year or so.
“We just planted a small amount (of blueberries) to try for the next season,” Lasserty said. “So far so good. We won’t actually see any production until next year or the year after. Blueberries do really well in sandy soil which we have a lot of, so our land is good for it.”
The next crop to plant on Mike’s Farm’s list are pumpkins, which usually go in the dirt around the fourth of July, according to Lasserty.
While blueberries are grown successfully at a few farms in Onslow and Carteret counties, the heart of blueberry production in the state lies to the west of Jacksonville in nearby Pender County, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
According to Pete Cowan, co-founder of the annual Blueberry Festival held in Burgaw, the general blueberry harvest on the East Coast will be mostly complete by next month.
“Generally, blueberries on this side of the state start picking early, in the middle of May. The crops will start winding down mid-July.”
Cowan said the best time to plant blueberries is in late fall as temperatures begin to fall from their summer highs.
“You try to look for a time to plant when it’s not too hot,” Cowan said. “You have to be careful, though, because we could have 80 or 90 degree days in October, which is not good for the berry. Blueberry farming is very much a science and doesn’t include much guesswork. We have some great blueberry farmers here in North Carolina who are very well trained and are prepared to plant at the right times.”
According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s website, the most productive time for a blueberry bush’s fruition also depends on local conditions, such as altitude and latitude. For more information about blueberries, visit NorthCarolinablueberries.com, hosted by the North Carolina Blueberry Council.