Florida Blueberry Grower: “Wasn’t a Good Year for Florida”

Jim Rogers Florida

By Clint Thompson

Blueberry season has all but ended in Florida. Growers are taking stock of the season, which was impacted by the Christmas freeze event and a couple of freezes in March.

Florida blueberries

One producer believes it wasn’t a good year for Florida.

“We were down on our yield. We were a little late because of some of those freezes. The price wasn’t very good for us. It just wasn’t a good year,” said Ryan Atwood, who lives in Mount Dora, Florida and farms 56 acres of blueberries, manages another 350 acres and is part-owner of the largest packing house in the Southeast United States.

The multiple days of sub-freezing temperatures in December caused a timing issue on the blueberries that producers could not overcome. Blueberries were delayed and not ready for harvest until Georgia’s crop came on the market.

“It made us late because we spray Hydrogen Cyanamide. You wake your plants up when you do that. We usually spray that in December. Right when they were waking up, these four days of 20-degree weather comes in on you and it puts them back to sleep,” Atwood said. “Once you spray, you can’t really respray again. They just stayed dormant for another five or six weeks, and they broke just about when Georgia’s stuff started waking up. It just killed our timing.

“We usually beat Georgia. With Mexico bringing in more and more, Georgia didn’t have a freeze this year which is first time in a long time. They came in right on top of us, or we came in right on top of them. It was made for not a good year.”

Atwood said fruit quantity was down as well, as much as 30% to 45% in some of his farms.

“Florida had a little bit of fruit before Georgia but not the kind of volume I’m used to having. With the hurricane, South Florida didn’t produce squat this year comparatively. They were way off,” Atwood said. “I was off here in central Florida, but the guys two hours south of me that got hit with the hurricane (Ian), they were way, way off.”