Virginia farmers preparing for sweet berry season

Published 3:00 pm Friday, May 27, 2022

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Strawberries are center stage right now, but blackberries and blueberries will get their time to shine in a few short weeks.

“We’re ready for a good season,” said David Goode of Swift Creek Berry Farm in Chesterfield County. “We’ve got good fruit development, and there’s a lot of healthy leaves and healthy plant structure.”

Goode, a Chesterfield County Farm Bureau member, grows five blueberry varieties on 12 acres at the family-run farm — Premier, Tifblue, Powder Blue, Ira and Titan. He reports that while his blueberries are producing well overall, they did experience some loss.

“Premier seems to have taken a decent hit as far as the blossoms not developing to fruit,” he explained. “A lot of factors go into it. There could be heavy winds, heavy rain … we just couldn’t pinpoint what exactly did it, but all the other varieties look great.”

Jayesh Samtani, a Virginia Tech assistant professor and small fruit specialist at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Virginia Beach, noted that the April frosts caused flower losses in some of Virginia’s early-season blueberry varieties.

Despite this, “we are looking forward to a good crop this year,” Samtani said. “I encourage everyone to go pick, and enjoy some locally grown berries with their family and friends.”

Goode echoed that sentiment, reassuring consumers that his farm will have plenty of berries ready for U-pick when it opens in June. Customers can watch for announcements on the farm’s Facebook page.

In Richmond County, Bernard Boyle also is optimistic about the upcoming berry season. He and his wife, Dana, operate Garner’s Produce, where they grow about 300 Natchez-variety blackberry bushes and harvest berries to sell at their farm stand near Warsaw.

“They’re looking pretty good,” Boyle said. “Blackberries are easy in the spring. Later on is when you don’t want rain and all that stuff.”

Boyle anticipates that blackberries will be ready for harvest the second week of June, and it will be a delicious crop.

“Blackberry season is always something to look forward to,” he said. “You let them ripen right, and they get real sweet.”

Boyle also grows blueberries, which will be sold at Garner’s produce stand around the same time. The Powder Blue is their main crop, along with Pink Lemonade — a pink variety that he started growing for pollination and “just for the fun of it.”