By Adam Musgrave
As strawberry season comes to a close, blueberry farmers across Hillsborough County are gearing up for a very busy season. Record high temperatures this winter and a nearly complete lack of freezes have combined to make perfect conditions for the area’s traditional spring blueberry season.
With the perfect weather comes a triumphant return of the annual Florida blueberry u-picks, farms that encourage their customers to find and pick this delicious super fruit directly from the bush. Here are just a handful of the local farms that will be doling out these sweet treats by the pound, pint and bushel:
Barventa Farms is located at 6633 Simmons Loop in Riverview. Its u-pick season will open early in April and will run through May. It also includes a produce stand, where buyers can pick up many fresh vegetables. Though not officially certified as organic, Barventa growers use only natural practices and never use chemical pesticides on any of their produce. Find more information at 672-1371 or by e-mail at Bfarms@barventafarms.net.
Stafford Blueberries is located at 3111 John Moore Rd. in Brandon, just north of Bloomingdale Ave. This is a family-friendly farm with two acres of bushes that encompass five different varieties of blueberry. This farm opened its berries to the public on March 28 and will continue through the end of the season. Its owners also sell fresh blueberry jam and honey along with their berries. More information can be found by calling 340-4382 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moody Blues Farm, of Lithia, is located at 404 Cloverleaf Dr. Its owners offer already-picked berries as well as a u-pick option for buyers. Their berries are certified organic. The farm’s picking season is scheduled to begin in mid April; their Website, www.moodybluesfarm.com, will be updated with dates as they become available. This farm also sells local honey and blueberry jam. Those interested can also contact them by phone at 684-8468 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Bonnie Blueberries, located at 201 Wendel Ave., also in Lithia, is a small blueberry farm that boasts four varieties of blueberry: Emerald, Jewel, Princess and Windsor. They open on April 6 for the u-pick season and will continue until the end of the season. For more information, call 928-4736 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Recipes are also available at www.bonnieblueberries.com.
Big Bear Farms, Inc. is a certified organic farm located in Plant City at 7606 Kinard Rd. In addition to their blueberries, Big Bear offers an assortment of other produce including tomatoes, peppers, peas, squash and carrots. They offer both u-pick and pre-picked blueberries and these services have already begun for the season. For more information and updates throughout the year on available crops, visit their Website at http://bigbearfarms.mysite.com. They can also be reached by phone at 986-1152 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Alpha Growers Blueberries, also in Plant City, will be opening later in the season at the beginning of May and will remain open until the berries are gone. They are located at 5615 W. O. Griffin Rd. Interested parties can find more information by calling 245-6818 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glover’s Blueberries offers u-pick blueberries as well as ready-to-go fruit for its customers. They are located at 4612 S. Calhoun Rd in Plant City. They will be opening in May and should remain open until the blueberries are finished. For more information about this farm and for hours, call 763-0399 or contact them by e-mail at email@example.com.
Proctor’s Family Farm begins its 2012 u-pick season the second week of April and continues through the end of May. Proctor’s is a family-friendly farm that encourages kids to come and pick. This farm is located in Plant City at 7105 Kinard Rd. In addition to their blueberries, the farms proprietors provide tips, recipes and even stories related to the delicious fruit. For more information, visit their Website at http://www.proctorfamilyfarm.com. They are also available by phone at 323-8822 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keel & Curley Winery, located at 5210 W. Thonotosassa Rd. in Plant City, is hosting its Fifth Annual Blueberry Festival, which includes u-pick, on Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6. Admission is free. Gates are open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday. Fifty local craft vendors will be on-site in addition to local restaurants. The 20-acre farm will also have live music and wine tasting as well as a free kid’s area for the kids to play in.
For more information, please call 752-9100 or visit www.keelandcurleywinery.com.