Berry Production for Your Small Farm

Randall Weiseman General

These days, many Americans are concerned with the health benefits obtained from the foods they consume. Perhaps that’s part of the reason U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that domestic berry sales have increased dramatically in recent years. Two crops from this category suitable for many Florida small farms are blueberries and blackberries. Depending on your location, they could provide a tasty harvest of fresh berries from March through July.

As with all agricultural ventures, determining your market is the first step to take in your overall business plan. Whether you plan to sell your crop to visitors at your farm, local retail outlets, shoppers at your local farmers’ market or restaurants, do the research to find out when your client base would like to have your product and how much you need to produce to meet demand. Often, you won’t be able to pre-sell your crop but it’s an advantage to do so when possible.

Figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Florida Agricultural Statistical Directory indicate that in 2007 blueberries were harvested from approximately 2,600 acres in Florida, with gross receipts of almost $33 million. That means Florida ranks seventh nationally in blueberry revenues and accounts for 8.6 percent of the total value of the U.S. blueberry crop.

Relatively small acreages of blueberries can produce fruit for the wholesale market, which has a marketing window of four to six weeks. But small acreages grown for local distribution can be harvested for up to 12 weeks, depending on location.

The majority of blueberries grown in Florida are known as southern highbush cultivars. They are generally early and high yielding compared with rabbiteye cultivars, which are related to native blueberries. Examples of highbush blueberry cultivars for Florida are Star, Jewell, Springwide and Primadonna. Examples of rabbiteye cultivars are Woodard, Savory, Florida Rose and Climax.

Highbush blueberries thrive from lower Central Florida through the Panhandle. Rabbiteye cultivars, often later maturing and somewhat lower yielding, are grown in upper Central Florida and places farther north. Areas where highbush and rabbiteye cultivars can both be grown will have the best chance for a 10-12 week harvest season.

Gary K. England, regional specialized extension agent – commercial horticulture
Sumter, Citrus, Hernando & Pasco Counties
(352) 793-2728,