Bright season is ahead for Virginia berries

RICHMOND—It’s the time of year when fresh Virginia-grown blueberries and blackberries are ripe for the picking, and berry lovers can once again savor locally sourced summer fruits. 

Pam Hall, events and on-farm administrator for Westmoreland Berry Farm near Colonial Beach, helps operate the farm’s pick-your-own operation. Despite a late freeze and an abundance of rain this spring, “both the blueberries and blackberries are looking fine and abundant this year,” she said. “We are projecting that people should be able to begin picking blueberries in the middle of June and pick until the middle of July. Blackberries should be ready to pick in early July and last until the end of August.”

Hall suggested visitors check the 2016 Growth Calendar on the berry farm’s website and call ahead to check berry availability.  

Temperatures well below freezing for several nights in early spring had small fruit growers in Virginia wondering if it would affect their berries.

Dr. Jayesh Samtani, small fruit specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension, said the freeze “caused cane and bud damage to early-season blackberry and blueberry varieties. Yields will be reduced slightly as compared to past seasons.” 

Bill Apperson, an owner of MillFarm Christmas Trees & Berry Farm near Williamsburg, was optimistic that his blueberry and blackberry harvests would be plentiful. 

“The farm will have a good crop of blueberries this year, even considering the killing freeze. We will be open to the public to start picking blueberries starting June 11 and will continue for six to eight weeks,” he said.

MillFarm is primarily a pick-your-own operation but also sells berries at several farmers’ markets.

“This is the best year we’ve ever had for blackberries,” Apperson said. “The only damage from the freeze was to one early variety. We’ve already cut back some primocane, or first-year canes, that were over 10 feet. Blackberries will be ripe and ready to pick by the end of June or early July.”

Media: Contact Hall at 804-224-9171 or Apperson at 757-879-4666.

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