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Small fruit season is almost here

virginia-blue-oversizeThe bushes and canes are growing heavy with berries at Richard Jackson’s fruit farm, and so far this season things are looking good for his new operation.

“I had a little problem with some of the equipment I use to keep the grass down. But I got that figured out, and I expect to be picking fruit in a few weeks. Berries are looking good so far,” Jackson said.

Jackson planted his first blueberry and raspberry plants in 2012 and has been working with Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists to learn how to grow his plants in the hot Amelia sun. Last year he didn’t need to irrigate at all, but this summer he’s trying to figure out how to store up rainwater to help augment his well when the weather turns dry.

“I’m planning to expand my operation, so this summer is a very important time for me,” Jackson said. “I’m also planning to expand my garden and get into vegetables. I’m working nights now, so I’m trying to start small and grow.”

Blackberries, blueberries and raspberries are quickly becoming popular options for smaller-scale and beginning farmers in Virginia. The 2012 Census of Agriculture findings estimate the number of blackberry growers has grown by 50 percent since 2007. The number of blueberry growers doubled to 415 in that same period, while the number of raspberry producers also almost doubled, to 240.

Most small fruits are sold locally at pick-your-own operations or farmers’ markets in Virginia, although each year more producers are processing their fruit and offering value-added jams and jellies.

“I have a small operation right now, only 150 or so plants. I hope to triple those in the near future. What I’m hoping to do first is expand and get it fenced in,” Jackson said. “I’m selling at local farmers’ markets and (to) folks coming by the farm, and (by) word of mouth.”

Fresh blackberries, blueberries and raspberries will be available all through the summer.

augusta free press
augusta free press