From drought to drenched, blueberry farmers couldn't catch a break

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WTVY) — All across the southeast, prices for blueberries have been much higher this year. From a drought to a tropical storm, blueberry farmers couldn’t seem to catch a break this season.

At premier Blueberry Farms in Kinsey, Owner Harold Raley surveys his rows and rows of blueberries. He says it’s been yet another rough season, with a financial loss of more than a hundred thousand dollars.

Raley says:
“this farm, we’ll probably lose 125,000 on this crop.”

Raley usually ships out about 60-70 pallets of blueberries, but this year he only had ten.
His blueberry picker normally would be very busy, but it’s been sitting idle for three weeks.

A combination of weather factors cut this picking season short- starting with the drought last year.

Raley says: “It really started back in August when we started getting dry weather.”

Then came a late freeze in March, it got way too cold for many of the plants to survive.

The ones that did still needed cool nights, with temperatures between 35 and 55 degrees to produce blooms that can be pollinated.

“Our chill hours on blueberries need to be from 250 to 450 minimum because we have 5 different varieties of blueberries.”

Raley says his plants didn’t even get that 10-20 days needed.

Raley says a perfect berry will have a greyish tint to it but it never reached that this year.

“A perfect blueberry is 95 percent water.”

But many berries got way too much rain thanks to Tropical Storm Cindy. Many of them ended up falling to the ground- too soft to salvage for human consumption, but Raley’s dogs, Ginger and Little Bit, are making the most of this tough blueberry season.

Raley says crews have started to prune bushes early to get ready for next blueberry season, with fingers crossed for better weather this time around.