Virginia blueberry bushes loaded with fruit this year

blueberriesAt Swift Creek Berry Farm and Greenhouse in Chesterfield County, one of many pick-your-own operations across Virginia, the bushes are loaded with ripening blueberries.

This year’s crop promises to be excellent, according to owner Clyde Goode, who oversees the family-run farm that has more than 15 acres of blueberry bushes in production.

“Everything has been perfect so far,” Goode affirmed. “We usually start picking the last week of June and pick until mid- to late-August.”

Visitors can pick their own berries or buy them already picked. The farm, which has been in operation since the 1980s, also supplies fresh blueberries to wineries and local retailers. Goode relies on drip irrigation to supply much-needed water to the blueberry plants and other produce grown at the farm to meet increased demand for local foods

“As a small fruit crop, blueberries are a good fit for the diversified small farm and direct marketing operations in Virginia,” noted Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Consumers can buy locally-grown blueberries from producers at farmers’ markets, roadside stands or pick-your-own farms.”

Blueberry enthusiasts also can find their fill at the 31st Chincoteague Blueberry Festival, which will be held July 20-22. Blueberries abound in festival menu items such as blueberry pie, Island Creamery blueberry ice cream and fresh blueberry salads.

Sam Serio, organizer of the festival, touts the health benefits of the small fruit because they are high in antioxidants, which help prevent disease. Serio believes those benefits “are now part of the public consciousness.

”If you want to get the most antioxidant bang for your food bucks, the festival website recommends, “load up on blueberries.”