“To all of our Florida Blueberry Growers Association members:
Our harvest time is really getting kicked into high gear. While the last few months of 2016 did not give our crops as many chill hours as we’ve seen in years past, it was not a complete lack of chill accumulation. That being said, we know all too well that Mother Nature is not always kind to everyone. Our hearts go out to our brother growers in Georgia as they grapple with the effects of the recent inclement weather. The freeze events to the north that occurred in March may open up opportunities for a longer harvest season for Florida growers. Although it is nearly impossible to predict the volume, most of the Florida fields should have a pretty good harvest.
So, the Florida blueberry industry has the opportunity to have a profitable season. With the dismal season of last year in mind, we as an industry, cannot miss this opportunity.
It is essential to practice clear communication between the growers and the marketers selling the fruit. It is imperative that all growers stay in close contact with their marketer and give them accurate weekly harvest estimates. With this information, the marketer should market your fruit according to the rules of supply and demand and not to historic calendar pricing. With the limited amount of fruit available over the next 2 months, this information is critical to a successful season.
Here are a few important reminders for harvest time that will hopefully help increase efficiency, volume, and have a positive impact on the price.
· Harvest every day if you can. Communicate with your crew leaders and labor team to make sure they understand the importance of daily harvest.
· Most important, so I am listing this twice – Keep your marketer informed of the volume you will be picking each day. Let them know as soon as possible if your actual volume on any given day is going to be significantly different (higher or lower) than you initially projected. If too many farms deliver an unanticipated or unplanned number of pounds to the dock without warning, it could have a negative impact on price. After each day’s harvest, redo the math and share the new anticipated total as early in the morning as you can.
· Be diligent and stay on top of your SWD, snail, and fungicide program. As a reminder, if you are concerned that moving your sprayer through the field will knock off fruit, then look into your aerial spraying options. There are several companies that provide this service and cater to blueberry operations.
· If you are open to it, consider opening your farm to the public and host a u-pick. This can help supplement income towards the end of the season, when the pickers are starting to head up north for the Georgia harvest and you still have fruit on the bush. If you are planning on hosting a u-pick (whether it’s for the first time or not), read the editor’s notes in this edition of The Blueberry News magazine. She offers some helpful suggestions on marketing and using social media to get promote your u-pick.
Also, the FBGA website has a portal for you to add your farm for u-pick operations and is one of the most popular destinations on the site.
Also, a reminder that your FBGA Executive Committee and Board of Directors remain committed to helping our industry grow and thrive. We all volunteer our time to serve you— the growers, marketers, and associate members. Please contact us if we can be of assistance to you in any way.
As always, I wish everyone a safe and profitable season.
President, Florida Blueberry Growers Association”