U-Pick Helps Blueberry Grower Extend Her Season and Replace Market Decimated by Mexican ImportsSun, 16 May 2021 06:11:10 EDT
Even along the Florida Gulf Coast- residents and tourists alike enjoy a trip to the farm. In Saraota, that trip may be to Albritton Fruit Farm, where the Blueberry U-Pick Season is winding down- with the Memorial Day weekend their final U-Pick opportunity of 2021. Albritton Farm is a family farm- and Sarah Albritton is a part of the family that started farming in Florida and Georgia in the 1800s. The Florida operation was started with citrus but also includes cattle and most recently blueberries.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays talked with Sarah Albritton while checking out the U-Pick Operation earlier this week- listen to their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below. .
And Blueberries are helping Sarah and her family venture into Agri-Tourism with their U Pick enterprise. While a large amount of their Blueberry income comes from commerically harvesting Blueberries- the U Pick operation has become key part of their strategy. Albritton believes that "U Pick is the way to go as as we are able to control the market as everyone is paying me to pick the berries." U Pick is the preferred way to market their berries direct altho they also sell through a couple of local farmers markets.
With 25 acres, 60,000 plants in rubber containers and 4 varieties- the Albrittons have more beries that what they can sell locally. In 2021, they have commercially harvested and sold 150,000 pounds- but that all came to a abrupt halt a couple of weeks ago.
Sarah Albritton says the problem are Mexican blueberries that started flooding the US market the end of April and early in May. "When the Mexican blueberries come in- we are paying about a dollar a pound to pick it- and we can't even afford to commercially harvest when those Meixcian berries come in.," adding "the market price is completely lower thasn what it needs to be and the market is flooded. Two weeks ago when we stopped commercially harvesting- there were six million pounds at masrket and a day later there were 18 million pounds- so they do really flood the market and make it very very difficulte for domestic growers to compete."
While cattle ranchers and wheat growers cheered the USMCA negotiated by the Trump Adminsitration that replaced NAFTA July 1, 2020- fruit growers got little help in keeping their markets from being flooded by Mexican produce. Sarah Albritton and her family are an example of how that impacts family farmers.
And it's not just the the vagaries of trade- for the Albriton's and other cirtus growers in this state- it's also the very real prospect of losing citrus as a crop going forward because of Citrus greening, a disease that reduces yield, compromises the flavor, color, and size of citrus fruit and eventually kills the citrus tree, is now present in all 34 Floridian citrus-producing counties. For the Albritton family- that means the 180 acres in citrus will likely not be replaced with new trees- until and unless breeders are able to develop a tree that can resist the deadly disease. That makes crops like Blueberries just that much more important to their future.
Visit the Albritton Fruit Farm website- Available Here- and check out their FACEBOOK page by clicking here.
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