New Berry Farm in FL - Need buyers

familybiz850October 17, 2013

Hello all,

So over the past few years, our family has thrown around the idea of starting a blueberry farm. We are now FINALLY moving forward (after someone tried to buy our land over the summer for start his own farm) but need some direction in marketing to buyers and distributors. Obviously, a farm full of berries does no good unless you have someone to sell them to, right? If anyone has any input that would be great!

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For blueberries there is a group of blueberry growers, sorry I don't know their name. You might check with the state agriculture department.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 6:33PM
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You did not specify the size of your expected operation, but I have some knowledge of selling a few acres. I grow and sell several acres of blueberries outside of Greensboro, NC. IâÂÂm no expert on SHB production in Florida, but I do know that the Florida Blueberry industry is growing rapidly because the berries are very early and sell for a high price. A lot of people are getting into the business and the competition is huge!

If you plan to grow a few acres you can direct market them PYO or through FarmerâÂÂs Markets. That is what I do with a few acres.
With more than a couple of acres but less than 10 acres you can direct market all you can and then sell the balance wholesale to chain of Supermarkets.. Early Blueberries are normally sold in ý pint clam shell containers. If you are careful, you can pick directly into the clam shells and cool the berries and transport them to the Supermarket warehouse with no special grading or packing equipment. NCSU has good plans for a portable forced air cooling system to cool and ship the berries for this situation. I believe the berries sell for about $25/ flat around your market window. Figure about $5/flat in labor and $2/flat in materials so you have a lot of margin left to cover the cost of growing the berries and profit.

With more than 10 acres you are looking at a major enterprise and a lot of money. Check out the trueblueplants website for more information about blueberry production in Florida

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 9:12AM
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Wow, thanks for the quality feedback, and so quickly!

First off, our operation is going to be anywhere from 5 - 7 acres year one, with hopes of planting anywhere from a total of 40-80 over the years (all depends on how this takes off the first year or two). We are hoping to let our earning pay for land development while still paying ourselves, as much as possible. We have much more land than this to plant on, but plan to diversify it with other crops.

We know this is going to be expensive to try and go far we are guessing about 12K-15K per acre to get started. Luckily, we have a lot of close friends and family that will can help get us started (stump clearing, plumbing, electric, horticulturist, etc.).

I have stumbled across the trueblue website...looks like a great operation. Looks like they offer commercial consulting services, but am waiting to call them until after we get a little more research under our belt.

Honestly, our biggest concern is just getting our product into the market (as anyone would expect). We are going to be able to hopefully start planting in about three weeks to try and catch the tail end of the planting season, but we are trying to get our ducks in a row first.

I think I will definitely be calling the State Ag Dept soon and continue looking into a PYO route as well (although, our land is not located in the most central area).

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 4:54PM
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The full intent on this is not to become the richest people in the world, but really wanting to start a family business that can offer long term stability.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 4:57PM
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Ok, I have a better idea of your plans and I understand that money is not the primary objective.
Since your location is not central to the population, you will need a relationship with a broker or a packer-shipper to handle your product, if possible.
You may want to contact them first and see if they have variety suggestions before you plant.
I saw that you have a horticulturist on your list of friends. Working with someone who has some experience growing Blueberries in your area is important unless you have $100k to throw away. The University of Florida has a lot of excellent research and information on Blueberries

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 7:59AM
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I'm not familiar with the southern varieties but up here the high and low bush take a few years to really produce anything. You mentioned 5-7 acres in the 1st year, that's planting? Since you mentioned clearing?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 2:00PM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

Hate to rain on your parade, but it's usually best to do more research and have some potential sales areas figured out before planting anything. Maybe you should start smaller and see how that goes first...

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 7:16AM
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