Banking on Blueberries

Slocomb, AL - Blueberries are beginning to mean big business in the Wiregrass.

Just a few years ago Ben Blaxton traded in his sales job and bought this farm in Slocomb to grow blueberries. He’s got ten acres planted right now, and by next year he’ll have 85.

“I did the research and saw the money that you could make on it and was thinking wow why doesn’t everybody do this. You can make a lot of money doing it. Then you get out there and start doing it and you realize wow I know why other people don’t do it,” said Blaxton.

It takes a large capital investment and knowledge to get a blueberry operation going, but local famers have one advantage, the Wiregrass Blueberry Growers Association. From marketing to packaging, the organization helps members get the most out of their berries. It looks like there will be plenty to sell this year.

“We haven’t had any weather events that have come through and hurt the crop yet. We’re looking good production wise. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a good price for the berries so we can profitably pick,” said Blaxton.

He’s hoping to produce a couple thousand pounds per acre this year, but his blueberry bushes are still pretty young. It takes about 5 years for one to mature and by that point you are looking at 5,000 – 10,000 pounds per acre.

“This is a still a relatively new industry around here and these bushes are still pretty young. It is a risk and you have to be willing to not risk any more money than you can afford to lose,” said Blaxton.

There are some blueberries plants producing fruit now, and then there will be another wave in a little over a month.

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  • by I Arlyin Location: Florida on Apr 27, 2012 at 06:12 PM
    Blueberries are really good. They make good pies and are good in cereal, muffins and by them selves. They are very nutritious, they contain lots of vitimins.Hope you make a killing price wise on your berries.
  • by Bill Location: 107 Sandy Springs on Apr 23, 2012 at 05:03 PM
    Enjoyed the informational TV video on your berry farm. The other "Bill" has an interesting question for you. My guess is they're hand picked. P. S. -- They are delicious! Thank you for sharing.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 26, 2012 at 06:17 AM in reply to Bill
      Thanks! Farmers are all expecting labor shortages and many have planted fewer acres in anticipation of that. I think that will play a part in putting upward pressure on prices of foods that can't be mechanically harvested.
  • by bill Location: dothan on Apr 20, 2012 at 12:18 AM
    who or what is going to pick these berries ???
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 26, 2012 at 05:55 AM in reply to bill
      There will be a lot more mechanical harvest this year; I bought one last year. As for the hand-picking, I've registered with e-verify and will follow the law.
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