Welcome to Deep Spring Farm’s Blueberry Path. In June, the Blueberry Path leads to all organic blueberry picking sessions, annual vegetables, U cut flowers, forest bathing and spring dipping. For 2021, U pick is planned for June 2 through June 26.
**Additional Late Season Picking Days by reservation: Sunday June 27 (9-9:30AM start), Wed June 30, Sat July 3, Saturday July 10.
Yoga with Betsy and Blueberries special event Sunday July 4, 9AM, $25. The farm is open year round to visit and collaborate for special events, but blueberries are ready to pick for just a few short weeks. It is possible to enjoy blueberries every day by making it a June priority to pick gallons to stash in freezer.
- Keep reading this Blueberry Path page to know about visiting and book required reservations.
- Go to Blueberry Season Update page for in season picking updates.
- Recommended: Subscribe to seasonal email updates to be the first to know when season opens.
- Subscribers were emailed a newsletter on 5/19/21.
- Bonus: See the farm somewhat regularly @deepspringfarmflorida Instagram and infrequently @deepspringfarm Facebook (convo with us through email.)
Our intention is to facilitate the best possible farm retreat experience for guests, hosts, and biodiversity. We’ve invested everything we have to create a destination and are committed to collaborating with informed guests to make it sustainable. Blueberry harvest is a community farming practice of sharing the labor and yield. We show you how to pick only delicious, fully ripe berries and protect plants. We appreciate hosting local foodies, preservers, conservationists, and small groups, including employer staff teams, for the Blueberry Path experience. With abundant choices in our regional foodshed, we are all the more grateful you choose to collaborate with us.
The invitation to harvest is accompanied by guidelines covered on this page.
Picking is intended for adults. All adult guests are requested to invest a few minutes in reading to prepare.
Reading this entire page and booking a reservation serves as Informed Consent and liability waiver.
Master the Blueberry Path:
Pick Blueberries Like a Boss
Start at Step One: Read for Informed Consent.
Step Two: Book picking session.
Step Three: Prepare + Pack.
Step Four: Drive + Arrive.
Step Five: Check In Blueberry Gap.
Step Six: Blueberry Picking Session Best Practices.
Step Seven: Check Out Blueberry Gap.
Step Eight: Optional but highly recommended: Take a Break on the Waterfront.
Step Nine: Drive Home Happy.
Step Ten: Enjoy blueberries everyday. Share with a friend. Book next session.
Start at Step One: Read entire page to know before you go – Informed Consent.
- Picking is intended for adults who want to pick at least one gallon of blueberries per person.
- First time picking adults welcome.
- No first time picking guests with children under ten years of age (except ok in carrier or stroller).
- Returning pickers: Older children (tweens) and possibly younger children may accompany and pick with a returning picker with advance notice.
- One child per adult.
- First time picking adults welcome.
- $25 picking fee per person, includes up to 1 gallon picking session and springfed pond ecosystem recreation at leisure.
- Use our to go containers $1.00 and/or bring your own bags/containers for free. Crop income does not yet cover crop expenses. Additional support above $25 is welcome to keep the U pick experience alive.
- Cash or Venmo @deepspringfarm (8127).
- Additional gallons at least $25 each, proportional.
- Reservations *most* Monday – Saturday mornings 8AM – 12PM noon. Last start 10AM.
- Book reservation using form embedded in this page. No drop in visits. The farm is open by reservation only.
- Guest Access: $25 is the minimum per adult to pick. It is fine if you want to experience the waterfront farmscape retreat and aren’t interested in picking berries for whatever reason. Plan on making a contribution of $10 minimum per person who visit and do not pick blueberries.
Step Two: Book picking session with online form.
- Book blueberry picking reservations for June 2 through June 26, 2021.
- No reservations accepted before or after that window.
- In picking season, visit this other Blueberries Page for day to day season updates on patch conditions. We note when there is an abundance of ripe berries and when demand exceeds supply. Top Tip: Ripe berries are most abundant in the 2nd/3rd week of June.
- Arrival time is a range. For example, book 8 – 9AM slot, fine to arrive at 8:30AM.
- Last start time 10AM. Later starts possible with advance notice and additional fee.
- Take what time you need to pick, patch closes by noon.
- Last minute (day of) reservations are possible. Use the form. Contact us by text to confirm.
- It is best to pick produce early. 8 – 9AM start is ideal.
- Before 8AM, berries can be damp, which is not desirable for storage.
- After 10AM, berries are warming and people are wilting.
- Guests who know they want to cut flowers/herbs are advised to arrive in the 8 – 9AM window. Flowers, like produce, are best picked cool.
- Arrival time is a range. For example, book 8 – 9AM slot, fine to arrive at 8:30AM.
- Weekday Picking and Saturdays: If you can flex your schedule, we suggest picking Mon – Thurs mornings and saving Friday/Saturday mornings for the folks who can only come those days.
- Wide open availability on weekdays with lots of berries and fewer pickers.
- Saturdays are well attended usually. Saturday picking guests are limited by ripe berry supply, book as soon as you can commit.
- Check the weather.
- Plan to pick before a rain event. After significant rainfall, a percentage of ripe berries are prone to split on the plant, and then wasps and other insects are attracted to split berries. All that can be avoided when ripe berries are picked before rain.
- We do not pick produce in the rain or just after when plants and landscape are easily damaged.
- Leave patch immediately if lightning present.
- Visit at your own risk: Booking a visit serves as a waiver of liability for Deep Spring Farm, protected by Florida’s Agritourism Law. We design and operate the farm for safety and security. Be prepared. Picking is strenuous due to exercising in June sun, heat, humidity while carrying berries and water. There is a degree of risk due to insects, wildlife, open bodies of water, uneven ground.
- Cancellation Policy:
- Communicate late arrivals and cancellations in advance. Making a reservation is an appointment for which we prepare with no time to waste. Email in advance, text day of.
- Reservations subject to last minute cancellation by host due to inclement weather. Picking reservations may also be cancelled if demand exceeds berry production.
- Blueberry harvest at DSF is intended as an adult activity, and possibly older children (tweens/teens). No first time picking guests with children under ten (except ok in carrier or staying in stroller). If you have picked at DSF before with your children, in most cases you are grandfathered in as an exception to adults only policy. The $25 minimum per adult applies, with $10 minimum per picking child (does not apply to carried/in stroller). One child per adult. Include child first name/age in booking note to host. First time picking guests with teens welcome.
- We must be upfront that with the walk in/out, deep tannic ponds and wildlife, the fragility of plants loaded with berries, and the heat, children’s comfort zone is extremely limited at the farm. Children usually lose interest in harvesting fruit quickly, within a few minutes. Use parental discretion as to whether your child will follow harvest policies and handle outdoor physical activity in the heat for a couple hours. Insecticides are not used, so there are pollinators, such as wasps, around plants and ants, including fire ants, underfoot.
- If you are a first time picker and have young children you want to pick with, we hope you find the perfect fit at another farm or backyard. We welcome you to come pick without your children and see what the farm is about. Every farm is unique and there are other farms (especially ones that have an earlier blueberry harvest season so that heat is less intense) where children will be more comfortable.
- Plan to pick early morning, late mornings can be too hot. Children must stay close to you in the same row where you can instruct and chaperone with no unattended roaming. Children (and adults) may cause loss/damage/unripe berries picked, so please be generous at checkout to mitigate impact.
Blueberry Session Booking Form starts here. Click on day, select time, fill in fields, press Submit. Thank you!
After submitting, expect confirmation on screen and by email. Please add the appointment to your calendar.
Step Three: Prepare to Visit | Pack What to Bring
- Check the weather.
- Be prepared, in case after picking berries you wish to picnic snack/brunch/lunch, forest bathe, spring dip.
- Cash or phone to Venmo @deepspringfarm.
- Gallon plastic bags or take home containers to pack berries, produce, flowers.
- Refillable water bottle.
- Cooler for berries/produce/flowers, water, picnic snacks.
- Hats, sun protection, closed toe shoes (to avoid ants).
- Optional: Bring your own hands free picking container/belt. Otherwise, use provided hands free picking gallon jugs with waist belt.
- Anything you need for springfed recreation: towel.
- Zero Waste: DSF is a zero waste farm. Pack in, pack out. If it is compostable, shovels are available to bury, otherwise, take it with you. We don’t have trash/recycling pick up.
Step Four: Drive | Arrive | Walk
- Check directions. Allow 30-45 minutes drive time from Gainesville.
- Enter the farm’s main entrance driveway at the blue canoe, turning south off County Road 1491. Park in field on the left.
- The 16419 W County Road address at the blue canoe is the main entrance and the only public access entrance.
- Walk towards Blueberry Gap: Walk south with Deep Spring Pond on right. Do not stop and wait at the tall bell, keep walking to the right past barn to Blueberry Gap between barn and Airstream tool trailer.
- Special Accomodations for Impaired Mobility: Make advance arrangements with us to park closer to the patch using the west entrance.
- Guests are part of the farm family: we look out for the grounds, take care when parking and opening vehicle doors, and look out for each other in general.
Step Five: Check In at Blueberry Gap
- Welcome Tent: Blueberry Gap is the area under the magnolia tree between the barn and Airstream and is the approximate midway point between parking lot and blueberry patch. The Welcome Tent is set up by 8AM, and shuts down about noon.
- We (Michael and Leela) will meet you at the welcome tent and exchange names. If we are not in view to greet you, ring the bell near tent or text.
- Please ask for anything you need to feel comfortable and relaxed.
- Preview or ask what produce and flowers are available. Set some aside to check out later if quantities are limited.
- Set anything you don’t want to carry to patch (containers, bag, cooler) on supervised, shaded picnic table. Many pickers take water with them to patch and leave other things at the Gap.
- Hand sanitizer, all natural fire ant/wasp sting pain reliever spray, all natural insect repellent, first aid, lost and found, extra water bottles, extra hats, towels available.
- Equipment: We will equip you with a clean bucket and picking cup, walk with you to the patch, and give an overview of picking.
- Restrooms and sinks: Toilets are in a bathhouse behind the barn (south side) near Blueberry Gap, handwashing sink between toilets and another sink outside at hydrant.
- Water: Good drinking well water refills available at sinks.
Step Six: Best Practices Picking Session in Blueberry Patch
- Best Practices: We want guests to feel superlatively successful at picking big, ripe blueberries. Sustainable success means you are very happy picking berries, we are very happy with the condition of the patch when you leave, and everyone is looking forward to the next picking session. Blueberry picking best practices follow.
- Leave No Trace Harvest: Pick fully ripe berries while leaving no trace of negative impact (waste/damage) on the environment.
- Quality and length of the harvest season is dependent on many factors, one of which is how gentle guests are with plants and the environment and how selective they are with berries picked.
- Picking unripe and underripe berries shortens the season and negatively impacts farm economics.
- Compromise: We accept that some people can’t/won’t take the time it takes to pick gently and pick fully ripe berries. We request that guests take responsibility for the impact and be generous at checkout to cover the expense. Less careful pickers are welcome, simply pay more than the minimum at check out.
- Wear bucket to be hands free. Unless physically unable, pickers are asked to use both hands to pick. Hands free is the way to pick so that both hands work together. Wear the belt and hang the container from the waist. Some people hang the container around the neck, or as a crossbody sling. Keep picked berries in the shade.
- Pick berries into cup: We pick berries into a recycled cup container, and then pour the small cup of berries into bucket at waist. This picking method is vastly superior to picking into hands. Hands are like sieves and drop berries. Cups have no holes and catch berries every time.
- When picking multiple gallons, bring your full bucket back to Blueberry Gap to store in shade. We will transfer berries to take home container or give a new bucket to get your next gallon.
- Stay on flat pathways: Do not step on mulch in raised blueberry beds. Do not step on sides of beds (where perhaps mulch has eroded away) because that encourages further erosion. Blueberry plants are shallow rooted and should not have roots disturbed. The drip irrigation system is under the mulch and keeping the mulch in place helps prevent weeds (which we pull by hand). Do not disturb/compress mulch, if you do, fix it. Even if there is a space between plants, it is not ok to cross between plants.
- Pick only ripe blueberries. Ripe blueberries are big and blue all over, without a hint of red or pink. The biggest, bluest berries are the ripest and sweetest. Keep moving from plant to plant to find the big, all blue berries that need to be picked, not the ones that can keep ripening on plant. If you see a ripe berry, but can’t reach it without stepping on mulch, then it is not your berry.
- Pick with your eyes first. Scan the plant from the ground up: berries ripen from lower canes first and from the end of clusters. If you see fallen berries under the plant, it is a sign that there are ripe berries on the plant. Look for big and blue. Apply your eyes first, then your hands – that way you’ll be sure there is no hidden pollinator/wasp. Look behind you at the plant you just picked to see it from another angle. Are there ripe berries that weren’t apparent from other perspectives?
- Pick with both hands. Position picking cup under ripe berries with one hand, then use thumbs + fingertips of other hand to gently twist/tickle/release/roll just the completely blue berries. Using your eyes and two hands together will allow you to pick mostly ripe berries and few unripe ones. Keeping cup under berries allows you to catch falling berries. No one handed picking unless you are physically unable to pick with both hands simultaneously.
- Do not pluck berries: plucking is a pulling action that causes other berries to drop and may break branches.
- Deadhead inedible berries as you go: Just like removing spent flower blooms, we remove spent berries as we go. Ripe berries can split with rainfall. Remove split and spent (ugly) berries from plants as you see them. A clean split is still a good to eat berry. Splits and softies (sunripened “raisins”) are great to eat while picking. A spent berry (shriveled, or ragged split or partially munched berry) should be tossed in the pathway (not under plants). More reasons to remove split berries from the plant: deter wasps and ants, help other berries ripen.
- Pick up dropped berries: Even with careful picking, it is inevitable that some ripe and underripe berries will drop due to hands/wind/rain/age. If you made it fall, it is your berry. Pick up ripe knocked berries for your bucket, or if not edible, toss in pathway. We want to keep the area under the plants clean to deter insects. It is not best practice to leave berries that you made drop under the plant: they either go in your bucket or in the pathway. If it is impossible to bend down for berries that you caused to drop, be generous at checkout.
- Do your yoga: Picking beautiful berries is a meditation and a workout, like a mindful yoga practice. Be prepared to stand, walk, bend, twist, reach, crouch, squat, kneel, all along practicing gentleness with yourself and the plants and no hurry. The bucket gets a little heavy as you go (it helps to start in back of patch and move towards front) and the temperatures usually heat up, all part of the Florida blueberry picking experience. Prepare to sweat. Wear clothes that you can wipe your hands on or bring a rag. We encourage breaks, hydration, and hats.
- Volume Control: With respect to fellow guests and neighbors, please keep voices conversational. We know berry picking can be exciting, but thanks for keeping the volume on low, and for not yelling unless it is an emergency.
- Tasting Policy/Fee: Eating berries while picking is part of the experience, and an expense. Eat as many as as you like and be generous/round up at check out. We tend to eat split and jammy (soft, slightly aged) berries for free and save the best berries for the bucket.
Step Seven: Check Out at Blueberry Gap
- Walk back to Blueberry Gap to check out with Michael and Leela. Ring the bell if we are out of sight.
- Transfer Berries: We pour berries (with a funnel, otherwise, berries can tumble to ground) into supplied containers or your own gallon slider/zip plastic bag/container. Containers supplied by farm $.50 each.
- Keep the plastic bag or container cracked open to prevent the warm berries from steaming, and put them in a cooler, then refrigerate/freeze as soon as possible.
- Go plastic free and avoid disposables if possible by bringing reusable containers.
- Instead of plastic bags, we now offer kraft paperboard take out containers for berries.
- Payment Options: Cash or Venmo @deepspringfarm (8127) preferred.
- PayPal card reader swipe + transaction fee (no PayPal account necessary).
- Use your PayPal account to send money as a friend to Deep Spring Farm (fee free).
- Open to barter/trades Mon – Thurs.
- Pricing: The $25 minimum price per gallon applies when Leave No Trace Best Practices are fully complied with: almost all completely ripe *blue* berries, no wasted berries in patch, picking into cup with both hands.
- Expect to pay more if many unripe berries are picked or ripe berries are dropped or eaten in patch, or you can give more to support the farm.
- Growing organically in Florida is rewarding, though does not yet cover expenses, and we depend on your support to stay open to guests.
- Vegetables and Flowers: Freshly harvested organic produce, such as tomatoes and peppers, and U cut flowers available at check out.
- U cut flowers, like zinnias, celosia, gomphrena, $5 – $10 per bunch.
- Borrow pruners to cut flowers. Take home in your own jar or bag with water.
- When checking out, wear a facial covering if you like, but not necessary. We are fully vaccinated and will wear a facial covering upon request.
Step Eight: Take a Break on the Waterfront
You are welcome to explore the 22 acre grounds, have a picnic, take in the views. Please stay on paths, as sandy soils and vegetation are sensitive to impact. Deep Spring Pond is the body of water closest to CR 1491. The covered platform is the location for yoga classes. The trail around the 1 ac 30′ deep pond is a pleasant hike. Using the dock is the best way to access the water. The water is tannic with visibility to 4 feet depth. We try not to walk on the pond bottom, as it disturbs sediment and decreases visibility. Absolutely no walking/climbing on sloping pond banks (which continue to take a tremendous amount of time and effort to restore): stay on the upper rim path. We appreciate your help keeping paths clear by removing fallen branches and Spanish Moss from paths and plants and piling debris in beds where other plant debris is present. Neighborhood wildlife includes squirrels, red shouldered hawks, soft shell turtles, great blue heron, egrets, an anhinga, osprey, swallowtail kites, other birds, and plenty of fish in the pond. Guided tours of farm systems and projects are possible by donation. Buildings and cargo trailers are private.
Sunrise Pond is on the east side of the farm. It is 1.5 acres and 12 feet deep. Both ponds have extensive restoration work still to do. We love doing it and welcome volunteers. The typical focus is removing invasive plants, such as torpedo grass. We envision a lot more native plants around both ponds and appreciate plant donations.
Step Nine: Drive Home Happy
Hydrate and rest in knowing a healthy snack is just handful away.
Step Ten: Enjoy Blueberries Everyday. Book next picking session.
- Reviews: We want your experience to be five stars every time, and appreciate your online reviews: Leave a review on Google, TripAdvisor, and Facebook reviews. Feedback you provide via email is appreciated so that we can continue to grow in service to community.
- Photos: We appreciate your photos of blueberry picking and the moreish food you create. Tag @deepspringfarmflorida on Instagram and @Deep Spring Farm on Facebook.
Bonus Read: More about Blueberries.
- 2021: The majority of the crop are several varieties (Premier, Brightwell) of nine year old rabbiteye blueberry plants grown using organic practices and no synthetic chemicals. They were grown 3 years in containers, and then planted in pine bark fines in a patch just under 2ac in 2015. A few smaller bushes scattered about are younger plants. Each year, the plants are organically fertilized and mulched with pine nuggets. During fall/winter, the bushes are well pruned to favor fruiting canes. This is a time consuming process, but it prevents overfruiting and increases the size and quality of berries. Hand weeding is ongoing. The pathways are maintained by cultivation, mowing and weedeating.
- Sold by volume, not weight. A gallon of blueberries varies in weight. 5lbs is the weight we go by when selling a gallon of picked berries.
- An adult can pick a gallon or so of blueberries in one to two hours. Many guests enjoy picking several times in the season, to have plenty to fresh eat, and gallons to freeze. Early and late season, there are singles and small clusters to pick. Mid season, there are larger clusters to pick.
- We store dry berries sealed in the fridge and may give berries a quick rinse before eating. It is your choice whether to rinse before freezing. If they will be consumed quickly, it doesn’t seem to make a difference in quality whether they are rinsed or not. If freezing for long term, it is best not to rinse as the skin seems to thicken and become rubbery.
- Work Trade: Often there is opportunity for weekday AM picking on shares. A skilled, selective picker (mostly all blue, unblemished berries) can pick on halves no cost: pick a gallon or more and we get half. Inquire in advance.
- Only open mornings: It is typically too hot to pick afternoons in June (berries too warm, losing hydration and softening in the heat as plants and people do). Berries picked warm do not keep as long as cool berries, and will often smush due to dehydration.
- Late weekday afternoons into early eve may be available by request only if you are a returning, skilled picker, meaning you have harvested at the farm before and we know you, and your schedule does not allow AM picking and the day is not too hot (perhaps overcast), and you are self sufficient (do not need our presence).
- Private Rentals: Small groups are welcome to make a picking reservation for the patch, facilities and springfed pond use. It is typically great fun and productive time for clubs, colleagues, friends and family to pick, socialize, and relax together. Mon-Thurs weekday AM and PMs and sometimes Sundays (depending on berry supply, $100 minimum) are available for small groups. Contact Leela to schedule.