Travel diaries: Dad’s blueberry farm

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The clean air, the soft chirping of the birds and the quietness that consumes my mind—that’s what I noticed as I arrived at Old South Blueberries farm.

The sight of the numerous rows of blueberry fields are enchanting and picturesque all at once. It really does take one’s breath away. I picked blueberries here last May, but this time around I wanted to capture the best moments of picking. The farm’s production was at half-crop this season and will be a full crop next year.

And let me tell you, the blueberries are huge. I’ve never seen anything like it, and they are so sweet and delicious. Even though my dad’s farm isn’t organic, it’s pretty much the closest thing to it with its limit on fertilizers. We don’t even bother to wash them before eating! Now, that’s what I call farm-to-table.

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The tale of the Old South Blueberries farm

My dad’s blueberry farm has been a long project in the making. What once was just a hunting camp and a place for us to unwind became 60 acres of beautiful fields dotted with juicy berries. But it didn’t just magically poof out of thin air. It took years for my dad to finally see results, and prayer and patience had a lot to do with it.

It’s funny how God works in mysterious ways. One of my dad’s life-long friends is a landscaper. When he visited the farm with my father, he immediately noticed the soil was ideal for growing blueberries. That seed of an idea turned into a dream of my dad’s that he never thought would happen. My dad met with an investor, shared his ideas, and then he became fascinated with everything there is to know about growing those blue handfuls of heaven.

My dad’s a contractor and has built custom homes in Florida for the past 20 years. So when he first told us the idea, we all kind of giggled and imagined him wearing overalls and a straw hat. Our family never thought we would have a farm to call our own. We definitely never thought we would eventually see crates filled with labeled cartons reading, “Old South Blueberries.” And the one thing that never crossed our mind: the fact that we would have a lifetime supply of fresh, free blueberries nestled in our fridges every summer. What a blessing!

Heading to the fields! My brother's English lab, Hobbes, loves to ride in the front seat with my Dad. We think he's half-human!
Heading to the fields! My brother’s English lab, Hobbes, loves to ride in the front seat with my Dad. We think he’s half-human!

I’m so proud of my dad for stepping out of his comfort zone and trying something completely foreign. It makes me happy to know that wherever you are in your life, young or old, you never have to stop learning new things.

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Hobbes sniffing his way through the fields.

 

The packing house
The packing house

The farm’s packing house is quite impressive, and prepping the berries from the fields to the grocery store is pretty meticulous. The distribution process begins with berries being dumped into a hopper machine (see above), which then blows the leaves out.

The berries pass on the conveyor (see below) through the color sorter. The color sorter selects the non-ripe berries and removes them from the processing line.

The little blues then move across an inspection table and into an automated clam shell packer (the cartons you buy at the grocery store). The cartons are then put into a cardboard case that fits 12 each. After each case is stacked onto the pallet, they are moved to a 42-degree cooler and ready for shipping!

My dad said the secret to a long shelf-life is getting the berries out of the hot sun just 45 minutes after they are picked. This is how they maintain their flavor and firmness. So if you pick up mushy, bland berries at the store…now you know why!

The berries pass on the conveyor through the color sorter. The color sorter selects the non-ripe berries and removes them from the processing line.
The berries pass on the conveyor through the color sorter. The color sorter selects the non-ripe berries and removes them from the processing line.

 

The distribution center
The distribution center

 

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We spent Saturday afternoon roaming the fields and picking berries off bush after bush. The ripe ones were so easy to tug off and drop into our buckets. We spent about an hour and a half picking, and I did my fair share of labor with picking a gallon and a half of berries. Needless to say, I was sweating and my lower back was in pain. But it was so worth it!

Mom picking berries with me! I think this will be a long family tradition!
Mom picking berries with me! I think this will be a long family tradition!

 

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I’ll be back soon!

There’s just something so primal and fulfilling about picking your own food. It calms your mind and takes you to a quiet place to reflect and just be still. In fact, it’s so quiet in the fields that you could hear a pin drop. The simplicity of being in a rural area without any distractions brought me so much joy!

If you ever get the chance to U-pick or visit a friend’s farm, do not pass it up! It’s such a fun way to unwind and spend time with loved ones. And you’ll have a big bag of blueberries to take home with you. What a treat!

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One Comments

  • Elena Wiggins

    June 3, 2016

    How fun! My first job as a pre-teen was picking berries at a family friend’s blueberry and raspberry farm. I was so tempted to eat everything I picked! I just love blueberries, even though at one point, I felt like I was starting to see blueberries when I closed my eyes/blinked, haha!

    Found you through The Peony Project!

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