Clinch County - Adair Chambers Peterson is about halfway through harvest season, and so far, things have been even better than expected. "I've been happy with it, things have gone well overall," said Peterson.
Her early variety blueberries got just enough rain and sunshine to make a sweet, plump fruit. But now its time to start picking the late varieties, and all the rain we've seen lately is bringing work to a stand-still. "You can't pick wet fruit and pack it to sell as fresh so when it rains, you have to wait for it to dry and about the time it dries, it rains again," said Peterson.
The rain delay may affect the quantity of this year's crop, but the quality is looking better than it has in years. Peterson is getting around $2.00 a pound for her blueberries at the market, which is twice as much as she was getting at this time last year. "There was a huge amount of fruit that hit the market at the same time and in order to move that fruit, we had to reduce prices," said Peterson.
But this year, the cold weather pushed harvesting back a few weeks. "By the time there was fruit available, the marketplace was ready for a lot of it," said Peterson.
Which means they were willing to pay a little bit more for it. Unfortunately, that means we have to pay more too. If you're buying blueberries at the grocery store, you may notice a higher price. That's because they're being hand picked right now, but when farmers bring their machine harvesters into the fields, that price will likely drop.
"As the volume of fruit increases, people start to mechanically harvest, we pack in bigger boxes and sell three times as much fruit for the same amount of money," said Peterson.
So while it will cost us a little more for the time-being, the above average quality of this years blueberries may be worth the extra penny.