Few blues in this crop tale

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2007

While summer may mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, one thing it consistent — the season signifies the availability of fresh fruit.

Despite the dry conditions in our area, the local blueberry is finding its way into many homemade recipes or freezers for future use if not eaten on site.

Debbie and Dale Pope, who have managed Blueberry Hill for owners Tom and Nancy Cogsdale of Sedley for about 15 years, say they would have no produce without taking matters in their own hands.

&uot;Drip irrigation saved the crop this year,&uot; Dale said of the newly installed system.

The Popes pick-your-own operation not only features Rabbiteye blueberries, but two varieties of blackberries, Chester and Triple Crown, both thornless.

&uot;The blackberries only have about one more week — tops,&uot; Dale said. &uot;We may not have as many blueberries (as we usually do) because I pruned this year. But they are prettier and bigger.&uot;

He also noted that because of that, the season may not last until September like it usually does.

Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers, but there are also some available at the berry farm.

Debbie said, &uot;We have pint-size containers available, but we charge by the quart. I just want to make sure the customers realize that they can fill two of those pint containers to equal a quart.&uot;

Blueberries are $3 per quart on Blueberry Hill and blackberries are $4 per quart.

Blueberry Hill is located at 18113 Harris Road between Black Creek and Sedley and is open sun up to sun down seven days a week. For more information call after 5 p.m. or leave a message at 569-0283.

Michael and Lenore Drewry of Drewry Farms in Wakefield, who have been growing and selling blueberries for about 20 years, have also utilized drip irrigation to get through the recent dry conditions. The lack of rain pushed back the opening for the blueberry season, which usually gets under way around Ju;y Fourth.

&uot;We opened on the 12th,&uot; Lenore said. &uot;We anticipate (having berries available) until the end of August.

&uot;(The berries) are looking good considering the weather and the late freeze we had in April when they were in full bloom.&uot;

In addition to the pick-your-own business, the Drewrys supply gourmet restaurants and farmers markets in Courtland and Williamsburg. They have built up a regular customer base, some that come from as far as Northern Virginia.

The Drewrys supply containers, and the blueberries cost 85 cents per pint. The farm is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, and is located at 541 Strawberry Lane off Route 31. Blackberries are also available there.

For more information or directions, call 757-899-3636.

Goodman Herb Gardens in Carrsville, owned by Dick and Joanne Goodman, have a smaller operation that is by order only.

&uot;We pick them ourselves,&uot; Dick said of the approximately 2/3 of an acre of established blueberry bushes. The Goodman’s have planted more for future use, which, according to Dick, takes &uot;a few years to get going.&uot;

&uot;We will hopefully have an acre next year,&uot; he said.

Not only has the heat and lack of rain taken its toll on the number of blueberries at the Goodmans’ gardens, birds also have posed a problem.

&uot;The birds got my first batch,&uot; he said. &uot;I had to put netting over them.&uot;

The Goodmans haven’t set up an irrigation system as of yet and according to Joanne, Dick hand-watered the plants.

&uot;They haven’t put out much this year,&uot; he said of their plants’ first fruiting season. The Goodmans have been selling most of their berries at the Old Towne Curb Market on Main Street in Smithfield and anticipate only two to three more weeks on the produce.

The blueberries sell for $3 per pint.

The business is located at 27175 Walters Highway, Carrsville.