Old Florida, new crop: Long-time Sarasota farmers invite public to pick blueberries

Past Clark Road and new developments, there's a piece of old Florida land owned by the Albritton family. 

"People who live in Sarasota and Tampa have no clue this is here. Well, I say there’s lots of farming still, it’s just on the back burner. And we want to be on the forefront of showing -- especially children -- where their food comes from," said Sarah Albritton. 

From citrus to cattle, the family has farmed since the 1800s. But times have changed. 

"Unfortunately with the citrus greening, we had to think of the next step, how are we going to pass that on to the next generation," said Albritton. 

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It only took a small insect to wipe out nearly half of the 500 young citrus trees at Citrus Place in Terra Ceia over the course of a few years.

The answer came from blueberries. In 2015 the Albritton family cleared 25 acres of citrus, and in its place, they planted 60,000 blueberry plants. 

"We started out on a large scale; it wasn’t just a few plants. It’s a huge labor of love," said Albritton. 

They planted four varieties: Emerald, spring-high, jewel and arcadia. 

The first commercial harvest took place in 2017.  The Albritton family opened u-pick to the public as a way to supplement income. 

Last year, with 200,000 blueberries ready to be picked, COVID hit. Before they could go to waste, the community came out in droves and saved their season

"It was wonderful to see the support on both ends that we were able to provide a safe, healthy environment for families that were cooped up in their homes to get out and pick. And we are also feeling that again this year," said Albritton. 

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Sarasota's farming community is working to have a positive impact on the lives of other farmers. How they are delivering relief to farmers in need is what's right with Tampa Bay.

The field is back open. Sarah Albritton hopes the surrounding communities will continue to support them. 

Her two sons are the seventh generation of the family. They're prepared to take on the family's legacy. 

"They want to farm just like their daddy and grandfather. It’s very rewarding and heartwarming to see that we are instilling those types of necessities for them to move on in the farming industry," she said. 

Courtesy Nichole Niffenegger Photography

INFO:

U-pick is open on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The blueberry field is located at 9600 State Road 72 in Sarasota. That's five miles east of I-75, off Clark Road. 

It's $5.50 for each pound of blueberries picked. 

LINK: For more information visit: www.albrittonfruitfarms.com