Blueberry growers across North Carolina are expecting a record crop as they start harvesting for the season, thanks to recent dry weather.
“Too much rain at harvest can damage blueberries and ruin a crop,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Fortunately, the weather is cooperating and we are seeing some of the highest yields and best-tasting berries we’ve had in years.”
North Carolina is the seventh-largest producer of blueberries in the nation. In 2012, the state grew 41 million pounds of blueberries. About 75 percent of the state’s crop is sold to fresh markets such as grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands.
Bill Cline, a plant pathologist at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Castle Hayne, works with blueberry growers throughout the year. He said consumers should have no trouble finding N.C. blueberries during the next few weeks. Shoppers are encouraged to check labels to see if blueberries were grown in North Carolina, but Cline said that even national brands should be using N.C. blueberries right now because of availability.
One of the best ways for consumers to know they are getting locally grown blueberries is to buy berries directly from growers at farmers markets, roadside stands or pick-your-own farms. Many of these growers expect to have crops that last until Labor Day. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers an online directory of farmers markets, roadside stands and pick-your-own farms at www.ncfarmfresh.com.
In addition, the department will host two special events to celebrate the season. Blueberry Days will be held June 18 at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh and July 10 at the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax. Both events will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They will feature free blueberry desserts and information about the state’s blueberry industry. Farmers also will have blueberries available for purchase.
More information about North Carolina blueberries is available on the N.C. Blueberry Council’s website, www.northcarolinablueberries.com.