For centuries, blueberries were gathered from the dense forests and bogs by northeastern U.S. Native Americans, and they are one of the only fruits we consume that are native to North America. So when most of us hear about blueberry farms, we conjure up images of cool, damp climates and cold winters.
Jimmy Miller’s blueberry farm, which is well south of the Mason-Dixon line in Interlachen, Florida, in an exception. Miller has operated the farm, which is the oldest existing blueberry farm in the state, since 1979. Miller, along with his two daughters and son-in-law, operates the 124-acre operation using a variety of blueberries developed by the University of Florida that tolerate the summer heat and mild winters.
Miller explains that one of the main issues for blueberry growers in Florida is that the plants require at least 200 hours every winter where the temperature dips below 45. If that doesn’t happen, fruit production can tumble quickly.
But the primary risk is a freeze or hail. “We never had a real loss until this year,” said Miller. “It was an early spring, and then all of the sudden, we had a front blow through that dropped our temperature to 24 degrees,” he explained.
The next day, the Miller clan was hopeful that the crop would be okay, “but we also knew that it could be catastrophic,” he said. Thankfully for Miller, he always purchases crop insurance, so if the blueberries didn’t look better in a few weeks, he knew he’d be filing his first-ever claim.
Read Jimmy Miller’s story.