It’s the height of blueberry season here in northern Georgia, which means DGD Farms in Watkinsville is operating at warp speed. The pick-your-own farm is one of several Walton EMC customer-owned operations welcoming guests for the season that runs through this month.
“There aren’t many things more rewarding than picking a perfectly ripe blueberry and enjoying the exceptional flavor that you only get from fresh, local produce,” proclaims the website that promotes the farm owned by John and Jennifer Hadden.
“There aren't many things more rewarding than picking a perfectly ripe blueberry…”
The Haddens are relative newcomers to the blueberry business. DGD Farms, located at 1112 Cliff Dawson Road, first opened to berry pickers in 2019.
“We never imagined that we’d buy a farm and make this big of a deal out of blueberries,” said John, who is an electrical contractor. After a friend connected the Haddens with blueberry growers in southern Georgia, 2,600 bushes were planted on the farm in 2016.
The well-manicured farm’s three acres of berry bushes are yielding plenty for pickers. But blueberries aren’t the only attraction this year, John said.
“After working out of a tent the first two years, we’ve added a full retail store that I think our visitors will enjoy,” he said. “And we’ve got blueberry ice cream this year!”
To further add to the enjoyment of the blueberry picking experience, the Haddens host special events during the season.
“We want families to come hang out with us and have a good time…”
“We want families to come hang out with us and have a good time, so we take it up a notch on Saturdays, having food trucks and vendor booths featuring locally made foods and more. Plus, we have music and outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy,” John explained.
The Haddens are among the producers who have helped elevate blueberries to Georgia’s top fruit. They blew past peaches in 2008 and haven’t relinquished the spot since. National Agriculture Statistic Service figures for 2019 show blueberries beat peaches with 21,700 harvested acres producing 94 million pounds of blueberries valued at over $133 million.
Georgia leads all Southern states and blueberry production and also ranks among the nation's top-producing states.
Georgia leads all Southern states in blueberry production and also ranks among the nation’s top-producing states, according to USDA figures. Georgia, Michigan and Washington annually jockey for the number-one ranking. Weather, such as this spring’s late freezes in Georgia, plays a role in determining where the most berries will be harvested in a given year.
Pick-your-own blueberry farms are popular throughout the state, but commercial blueberry production is concentrated in the southern counties. The region’s sandy soils and warm summers provide the perfect environment for growing the little blue fruit, the Georgia Grown website explains.
Most of today’s large-scale blueberry farms were established as a replacement crop for tobacco.
Though they are a cash crop mainstay today, blueberries aren’t native to Georgia. The first blueberry bushes were transplanted to coastal Georgia from West Florida in the late 1800s. The little blue fruit started catching on in the 1920s when the University of Georgia began researching their commercial potential. Most of today’s large-scale blueberry farms were established as a replacement crop for tobacco.
Blueberries are the second-most produced berries in the United States, after strawberries. However, the total supply of blueberries available for American consumption has grown at a faster pace than that of fresh strawberries. U.S. production of blueberries has been increasing rapidly to meet demand from consumers who have recognized the fruit’s healthful attributes.
Blueberries are consistently listed as one of the top 10 superfoods.
Blueberries are consistently listed as one of the top 10 superfoods — foods that are rich in compounds considered beneficial to human health. They contain high levels of antioxidants and fiber.
Whether your chief objective is harvesting healthy food or simply finding a fun summertime outing for the family, there are Walton EMC customer-owners offering places to pick your own blueberries. In addition to DGD Farms, the berries are ripe and ready at:
- Whippoorwill Blueberries, 1571 Whippoorwill Road, Watkinsville. Owners Steve and Kay Smith planted their first bushes over a decade ago. They offer only early-season blueberries, so their picking season ends in mid-July.
- Miller’s Blueberry Farm, 1371 Union Church Road, Watkinsville. Ron Putman manages the farm offering seven varieties of you-pick blueberries as well as blackberries. Miller’s is a Certified Bee Friendly Farm with no pesticide used on the berries.
- Washington Farms, 5691 Hog Mountain Road, Bogart. The Washington Family offers both pick-your-own and pre-picked blueberries and blackberries. Homemade ice cream is for sale, too.
- Tuckaway Blueberry Farm, 3560 Claude Brewer Road, Loganville. Ren and Cathie Knight run this pick-your-own operation that offers more than 500 bushes of rabbiteye variety blueberries.
Hours and days of operation for all blueberry farms are subject to change due to weather and crop availability. Before making plans to visit any of the farms, be sure to check their website or social media for the latest updates.
Freeze for later
Enjoy Georgia blues all year long by freezing some of your freshly picked fruit. The Georgia Blueberry Commission offers these tips for easy freezing:
- Gently wash the blueberries, getting any stems or leaves out.
- Pat dry.
- Add some sugar to the blueberries. For every 2 cups of blueberries use 1/3 cup of sugar.
- Mix them up gently.
- Add blueberries to freezer bags and freeze. These blueberries should last up to 6 months or longer.
- According to the USDA database of the antioxidant activity of selected foods, blueberries rank among the highest on a per-serving basis.
- Substances called polyphenols, which give blueberries their blue hue, are the major contributors to the fruit’s high antioxidant activity.
- Blueberries are an excellent source of manganese needed for bone development and to metabolize protein, carbohydrates and fat.
- One cup of blueberries has 80 calories and no fat.
- One cup of blueberries provides 25% of the daily requirement for Vitamin C.
- Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber, which contributes to heart health.