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.