The answer to this depends on your situation and where you are located. Since we’re in southeastern North Carolina and our harvest season is most of June, we’ll look at it from our perspective.
What should you expect when you arrive at our farm? To start with, our road is slightly narrow, though there is ample space for 2 way traffic along most of it. When you come through the gate, the blueberry building is straight ahead. You’ll park somewhere around the pond and this is when you’ll want to take care of the sunscreen, find your hats, and change your shoes, if desired.
Some folks bring their “picking shoes” with them and put them on when they get here and before they leave. The reason for this is that sometimes there are ripe berries on the ground in the rows either from wind dropping them to the ground, from birds, or from customers not getting all the berries into their buckets. Also, if there has been rain, the ground could be a little sticky to your shoes. We have a shoe brush at the blueberry building that takes care of most of this.
Some folks take a few minutes to look at the ducks and chickens, talk to the goats or pet the horses before they begin. Others wait and do this after they are done picking berries. And then the kids usually like to see the animals at the beginning and the end.
If you’ve brought your own picking containers, you’ll bring them up to the blueberry building to be weighed. We also provide picking buckets for your use. Our buckets weigh ½ pound each, so when you weigh out, we’ll subtract ½ pound from the total weight and then charge you for the difference. If you bring your own, we’ll need to figure out how much your containers weigh so we can do the same with them when you’re ready to pay. If you do provide your own picking containers, they should have a handle so that our scale can accommodate them.
Many farms require that you pick in a particular area of the field. At Farmer Mac’s, we allow you to choose a spot, though sometimes we suggest certain areas that look more promising than others. Some folks walk around and pick berries from plants all over the field. Others choose a row and stay in the same general area for the duration. There’s no right or wrong answer for this. The more walking you do the less time you have to pick berries, but the more you enjoy being in great outdoors.
When the bushes are full of ripe blueberries, it takes 20-30 minutes to fill a 5 quart bucket (more or less depending on how many go into the mouth). These berries are clustered similar to grapes and if you hold your hands together palms up around the berry cluster and roll your thumbs over the berries to loosen them from the stems, they drop right into your open hands. During this part of the harvest season, if you stand at the end of a row and look down, you see blue all along the row.
When it gets toward the middle of June, the berries start feeling the heat and they hide from the sun inside the bush. At least this is how I describe it. What really happens is that the easy berries to see are the ones on the outside and those get harvested first. Once these are gone, then you have to move the branches to see the bounty on the inside of the outer leaf layer. During this part of the season, if you stand at the end of a row and look down, you may only see green. This doesn’t mean that there are no berries, it just means that what berries are there are underneath the leaf layer.
Some folks take one or more buckets out to the field and find that they need more. Since we’re a small farm and we do what we can to make your visit as worry free as possible, we have several ways to deal with this. If you are staying in one general area, you could put your full bucket(s) on the ground in the shade of a plant and keep track of them yourself. You could also bring them up to the blueberry building and we’ll tag them for you and keep them in the shade at the stand until you’re finished picking. This serves the purposes of keeping them in the shade as the sun moves, it allows you to take a small breather, to gab a bit, and to get additional buckets if you need them.
Once you’re done, we’ll weigh your berries, take your money, and help transfer your blueberries into your containers. If you didn't to bring containers, we have plastic grocery bags that can be used for this purpose.
We also have chairs in the shade, farm animals, our farm family and customers who are willing to share a smile and an experience. Feel free to stick around for a while or head on out when you’re ready.
Our goal is to provide you the freshest, tastiest blueberries and a farm experience that will make you smile when you remember picking berries and sharing stories at Farmer Mac’s Berries.