The yield on Scott Barefoot’s blueberries was only average in 2013.  But considering the season―a cold spring and an extremely wet summer―he was satisfied.

The Four Oaks, N.C., farmer said the cold spring caused the loss of his first crop of blueberries, and then some of his rabbiteye varieties – which ripen at the end of the season – did not attain a desirable size due to lack of pollination.

“But the yield came out to 8,000 to 9,000 pounds per acre,” he said. In a good year, he would hope for 11,000 to 12,000 pounds per acre. “But under the circumstances, I would say it was pretty good.”

The quality was not what it might have been, in part because part of the crop had to be harvested in the rain. “Our quality fell off in the later part of the season, and we may have been off by 20 percent,” Barefoot said.

As you might expect, drying blueberries after a harvest as wet as in 2013 was quite a challenge.

“We used forced air to dry our berries after cutting,” said Barefoot. “That takes time, and we lose shelf life in the process. It was especially a problem last season. We lost three days of shelf life in drying them.”

He has since taken a step to lessen that problem in 2014. “New driers are on the market that can dry everything in 24 hours so we lose only one day of shelf life,” he said. He likes those numbers. “I have two on order.”

Like many blueberry growers, Barefoot has adopted a number of different varieties to try to stagger maturity and give him a supply of blueberries to sell in the peak period. “Our marketing ‘window’ only lasts about six weeks,” he said. “Staggering gives us berries for the full six weeks.”     

Barefoot’s variety lineup, from first planted to last, are Star, O'Neal, New Hanover, San Joaquin, Duke and Legacy. Those are all highbush varieties. He also plants a few rabbiteye varieties that ripen at the very end of the season. They are usually sold on the processing market.