SARASOTA, Fla. - At Albritton Fruit Farms, 60,000 blueberry plants with fruit ripe and ready to pick, cover 25 acres of land off State Road 72 in Sarasota, but there's nowhere for the berries to be sold.
"It's terrifying because we wait for this time of year all year. We prepare. It’s like Christmas. We are building up and building up for our harvest," said Albritton Fruit Farms' Sarah Albritton.
She said orders from their packing house basically stopped and prices dropped nearly $3 per pound since sweeping closures due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"There's no demand and it’s not like our commodity can sit around. It’s on the bush, waiting to be picked," she said.
Now they're relying on their U-pick business to see them through. The farm is open for visitors who are willing to keep a proper distance between themselves.
If you pick them yourself, blueberries go for $5 a pound. Prepicked berries are $6 a pound and can be picked up at the farm or storefront off Proctor Road.
"We are only 38,000 pounds in. Last year we did 170,000 pounds and the market has completely just fallen out," said Albritton.
They're working to break even and hope to make enough to pay their crew.
"It's not only tons of food, but it costs a lot to harvest it. We are old school, where we pick everything. I’ve got my crew of 60 to 90 pickers that are dependent on that money to send back to their families and support their families. If we don't have anywhere to sell our fruit, we can't pick it," she said.
The Albritton family has been farming since 1880. Five generations have seen the good and the bad. Now, they hope to make it through to next season.
"Farming is a difficult livelihood and there’s always been ups and downs, but nothing like this," said Albritton.
Albritton Fruit Farms is located at 9600 State Road 72 in Sarasota. Their storefront is located at 5430 Proctor Road in Sarasota
For u-pick dates and more information on where to buy blueberries visit https://www.albrittonfruitfarms.com/.