2021 organic blueberry harvest season is anticipated to open around Memorial Day weekend, May 31, and continue for 3 – 4 weeks (2020 Blueberry Harvest Season closed 6/21/20.)
**Day to day harvest updates and season end are noted on the Blueberries Page. **
We delight in sharing 2021 crops of organic blueberries, annual vegetables, and flowers with North Florida foodies. Blueberry harvest is a community farming practice of sharing the labor and yield. The invitation to harvest is accompanied by guidelines covered in this post and policies intended to facilitate the best possible farm retreat experience. We show you how to pick only delicious, fully ripe berries and protect plants. Participation is intended for healthy adults, and possibly tweens/teens. The experience is moderately stressful due to exercising in sun, heat, humidity. There is a degree of risk due to the presence of insects, wildlife, open bodies of water.
$20 – 30 cash sliding scale per person covers 1 gallon picking session and springfed pond ecosystem recreation at leisure. Additional gallons at least $20 each or $5 per quart.
Freshly harvested organic produce, such as tomatoes and peppers, and U cut flowers available at check out.
*Most* Mon – Sat mornings 8:00AM – noon. RSVP required to visit (read below). Last start 11AM.
Post picking, stay as long as you like for forest bathing and spring dipping.
The farm retreat and picking sessions are available for private group rental.
Payment Options if cash is not possible: 1. PayPal card reader swipe + transaction fee (no PayPal account necessary). 2. Use your PayPal account to send money as a friend to Deep Spring Farm (fee free). 3. Open to barter/trades Mon – Thurs.
The $20 price applies when Leave No Trace Harvest guidelines are fully complied with: all *blue* berries, no wasted berries in patch, picking with both hands. Anticipate the high end of sliding scale if many unripe berries are picked or ripe berries are dropped, or you want to give more to support farm objectives.
Bring: Cash, gallon plastic bags or containers, cooler for berries, water, picnic snacks. Pick into provided hands free picking gallon jugs with waist belt or BYO bags/containers/belts. Hats, sun protection, closed toe shoes (to avoid ants), long pants suggested (to kneel if needed). To be perfectly safe, feel free to bring your own picking container and belt to wear, but not required. When checking out, a face mask is recommended if you like, but not required. If checking out using PayPal, bring phone to use data to pay via link (in case card reader doesn’t work).
- Bookmark and check the website blueberries page for status updates. The top of that page is kept up to date, and will note if there is a temporary closure, or if open on a Sunday.
- Send RSVP email (if at least 1 day ahead) to mailATdeepspringfarmDOTcom (or visit the contact page) or text message (day of) to 352fivezeroseven8128. Provide planned arrival time, number of people, name.
- Receive confirmation. Advance emails will be responded to within 8 hours. Day of texts within 15 minutes if a timely reply is necessary. If it is day of, and you didn’t receive a quick reply (and a quick reply is essential), text again. Text again if plans change.
- Check the farm’s pinpoint weather forecast to prepare.
- Subscribe to the DSF email list to be the first to know farm updates.
- Stay connected through the season with DSF Facebook and Instagram.
Know before you Go: We ask all adults to read this page in entirety. Organic farming is a community effort, and we need everyone on the farm thinking like a farmer. We know of agritourism/u pick producers who closed their farms to the public due to visitor impact. We want to continue welcoming guests, so please keep reading to make the most of your retreat to the farm.
- Guest Cover Charge: $20 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. Setting minimums allows us to connect with guests who understand the need for sustainable commerce that benefits guests and the farm.
- RSVP Policy: To promote relaxation, safety and privacy, farm access is limited to guests who have RSVP’d via email in advance or text day of, no drop ins. The farm is only open if we have RSVP guests, as RSVPs enable us to manage time and farm workload. We are hands on farmers and unable to field phone calls.
- Cash Policy: We sincerely appreciate your efforts to obtain cash to bring to the farm. Checks and PayPal (plus fee) are ok, too. We will accept cards + fee when necessary through a PayPal swipe. Your understanding is a big help to us, being two people running 22 acres, we must adopt every sensible time and cost saving measure.
- Saturdays: Saturdays are well attended usually. Saturday picking guests are limited by ripe berry supply, RSVP as soon as you can commit. We schedule pickers lightly on Fridays to ensure Saturday pickers have enough. If you have a flexible schedule, we appreciate it when you pick Mon – Thurs mornings and save Friday/Saturday mornings for the folks who can only come those days.
Arrival and Welcome: Enter at the Blue Canoe sign, turning south off County Road 1491. Directions here. Parking is in the field on the left.
- Walk towards the Airstream RV to right of the barn to the Welcome Tent (tables, buckets, etc) to check in. If we are not in view to greet you, ring the bell near tent to let us know you are ready. Do not stop and wait at the tall bell in front, keep walking to the right, past the barn, to the Airstream.
- Set anything you don’t want to carry to patch (containers, bag, cooler) on supervised, shaded picnic table.
- If you are an experienced picker and know harvest policies, and no one is around, tap the bell and grab a bucket and go get your gallon of big blues.
- We meet everyone and exchange names. 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. Please ask for anything you need to feel comfortable and relaxed.
- We will get you set up with a bucket, walk you to the patch, and give an overview of picking.
- Toilets are in a bathhouse behind the barn (south side). Good drinking water refills available at sinks.
- Make advance arrangements with us to park closer to the patch when mobility is a limiting factor.
- Extended Hours: The Welcome Tent is set up near the Airstream near the barn by 8AM, and shuts down about noon. Earlier picking is possible, but berries can be damp. 8:30 – 9AM start time is ideal. It is typically too hot to pick afternoons (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. However, late weekday afternoons are available by request if you have harvested at the farm before, your schedule does not allow AM picking and the day was not too hot. If it is an overcast day (not too hot) and turns into a nice evening, pickers who we know are good pickers are welcome to RSVP for an evening picking session.
- Leave No Trace Harvest Guidelines: The 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 impacts farm economics. The objective is to pick fully ripe berries while leaving no trace of negative impact on the environment. If you have a different objective, and can’t/won’t take the time it takes to pick gently and pick fully ripe berries, take responsibility for the impact and be generous at checkout to help with the expense.
- 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. Let it be.
- Wear your bucket. Unless you are physically unable, all pickers need 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 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. Cup both hands under the ripe berries, then use thumbs + fingertips 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 cupped hands 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 ok 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.
- Stay on flat pathways: Do not step on mulch in raised blueberry beds or cross between plants. Do not step on sides of beds (where perhaps mulch has eroded away) because that encourages further erosion. Blueberry plants are shallow rooted and we don’t want to compact roots. 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.
- 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 especially for not yelling.
- 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 soft (slightly aged) berries for free and save the best berries for the bucket.
- Check Out: After picking, walk back to the Welcome Tent. We help pour berries (with a funnel, otherwise, berries can tumble) into a supplied or your own gallon slider/zip plastic bag/container and accept cash payment (or PayPal with fee added on). 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 at all possible by bringing reusable containers.
- Organic Produce and More: Seasonal organic produce and cut flowers are available for purchase: tomatoes, mild and hot peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, basil, rustic flower bouquets. Thank you for bringing extra cash to support the farm and feed yourself the best food possible. Ask for what you want, we may have it available. Future years will see more varieties of produce, U pick muscadine grapes, as well as baked goods and picnic foods.
- Recreation: You are welcome to get to know the 22 acre grounds with gardens, picnic and explore the trail around the 1 ac 35′ deep pond. This native freshwater ecosystem is sensitive to human impact. Using the dock is the only way to access the water, do not walk on the pond bottom, as it disturbs sediment and causes erosion. During low water, when dock is elevated above water, it is fine to walk in from the water edge. Absolutely no walking/climbing on sloping pond banks (which have been taken a tremendous amount of time and effort to restore): stay on the upper rim path. We appreciate your help removing branches and Spanish Moss that have fallen on 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. We are not promoting fishing at this time due to litter left in past and erosion caused by walking on banks. Guided tours of farm systems and projects are available by donation. Buildings and cargo trailers are private.
- 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) are available for small groups.
- Planning to Pick with Children: If you have picked at the farm before and think your child is ready to participate in the harvest, we want to accommodate. Blueberry harvest at DSF is intended as an adult activity, and possibly older children. The $20 minimum per adult applies, with $10 minimum per child. One child per adult. We must be upfront that with the walk in/out, deep 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 well over an hour. We do not use insecticides, so there are pollinators, such as wasps, around plants and ants underfoot. 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 may be more comfortable. Plan to pick early morning, late mornings can be too hot, and no children in the patch after noon. 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.
- Zero Waste: DSF is a zero waste facility. Pack in, pack out. If it is compostable, it can stay, otherwise, take it with you. We don’t have trash/recycling pick up and try not to store any trash/recycling to avoid issues with insects/wildlife.
- Events: The farm hosts community events, weddings and private rentals. Thank you for referrals!
- Reviews: We appreciate your online reviews: Leave a review on Google, TripAdvisor, and Facebook reviews.
- Photos: We appreciate your photos of blueberry picking and the food you create. Tag @Deep Spring Farm on Facebook and @deepspringfarmflorida on Instagram.
- Yoga: The waterfront platform is available for your own yoga practice. We’ve been very happy to host local yoga instructor classes at the farm in past years. We did not schedule yoga in 2020 for a couple reasons. Relaxing mat work on the ground is challenging with ants. The most popular day for yoga was July 4th, but the season may not last through the 4th.
- Volunteers and Donations: Volunteers and donations are welcome year round.
More about Blueberries:
- 2020: The majority of the crop are several varieties (Premier, Brightwell) of 9 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. 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 patch 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 an hour. Many people 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.
- The farm does not sell wholesale berries, there is no profit margin given small scale. Picked gallons are sometimes available at $40 per gallon (double the U pick price). Payment in advance of pick up.
Thank you for choosing to source food from Deep Spring Farm and other local growers. Making connections and friendships support us all as an extended family of real food and fun loving Floridians. 2020 is DSF’s fifth year in business with a life long plan for systems, facilities, and amenities for plants, people, and wildlife. With your ongoing support, the farm is on its way to become a year round U pick and event destination for present and future generations. Thank you for being a farm booster from the start. Your patronage makes it all possible.
Loving growth! Michael + Leela Robinson