Florida Blueberry Producer Discusses Season

Clint ThompsonBlueberries, Florida

By Clint Thompson

Florida blueberry producer Ryan Atwood would not classify this year as a bumper crop. But it was not a bad crop, either. It was somewhere in the middle.

The Mount Dora, Florida, producer discussed this season as harvests continue to wind down across the state.

“I always tell people it’s a five-year average. You’ve got good years, bad years and so-so years. You blend them together and hopefully come out okay,” Atwood said. “I’d call this more of a so-so year. I’ve got some farms that made money, and I’ve got some farms that broke even. I’ve got some farms that lost money. It’s a mix.

“If you had the right timing with the right volume, I think it was pretty good. I think it might be a little tougher for Georgia (price wise). We’ll see over the next week or two how that plays out.”

Georgia’s Crop

With Georgia’s crop coming online for the season, market prices have declined significantly. That helped lead to Florida growers calling it a year.

“The price has gotten pretty rough. Quality concerns, when you get towards the end of your crop, the fruit quality drops a little bit. Georgia’s quality is up. But it’s one of those things where prices got pretty bad. Georgia is producing a ton of fruit. I’ve been talking to guys up there, and they’re picking 5,000 pounds to the acre on one pick. That’s kind of unheard of almost,” Atwood said. “Really good quality size out of Georgia. You’re seeing large fruit. I think it’s adding to that yield.

“Usually, we start cutting plants by the end of April; early variety acreage, we’ll start cutting that. We’ll machine pick for like another 10 days. Within 10 days I should be completely done and shut down.”

Atwood said there is typically a 2-to-4-week period where he finishes up harvesting while starting practices for the summer.