AUBURNDALE (FOX 13) - A Bay Area farm is giving away its berries by the bucket-load, free of charge, to anyone willing to come pick them.
Luna Berry Farms, at 3132 K-Ville Avenue, is offering free "U-Pick" berries through Saturday, due to excess supply.
Farmers said, while this year's growing season went well, sales were less than they expected. In recent months, they've faced tough competition from Georgia blueberry growers when selling to packaging companies.
"We were fortunate enough to pack a lot of the fruit before they started packing out-of-state fruit. Once they started that, the economy did drop a lot," said Dana Langley with Luna Berry Farms.
Florida growers are at a slight disadvantage. Georgia's crop comes in a few weeks after Florida's fruit, so their farmers offer a cheaper price to packaging companies, enticing them to buy out of the state.
Luna Berry Farms is scheduled to trim down its blueberry trees in preparation for the next growing season next Tuesday, and farmers did not want to see all the unsold food go to waste.
"We'd rather give it away than it hit the ground," said Langley.
Their loss has turned into a gain for local blueberry lovers, who are now able to pick their favorite fruit at no cost.
"It's amazing! Especially when you have a three year old that loves to eat blueberries," said berry lover Jessica Stiles.
"We help them, they help us," added Laina Lindsey.
Luna Farms said many pickers have offered a donation to the farm, despite never being asked to give a dime.
Larry Frederick, a self-described "farm boy" from rural Ohio, said he was happy to support local growers, because without support, they'd be pushed out of the market.
"My dad was a farmer, and my granddad was a farmer, his dad, all the dads were farmers," said Frederick. "We can't import all of our food. We've got to have some here."
Customers will be provided with a bucket at the farm, but they must bring something to carry their berries home. There is a one bucket limit per adult.
"We're just making it aware that there is still Florida fruit here, so when you go in your local grocery store, ask for 'Fresh from Florida,' whether it be your blueberries, strawberries, peaches, whatever kind of fruit it is," said Langley.
The free picking is being offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday.