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Jacksonville Blueberry Crop Shriveling Up From Heat

Michelle Corum

Although final crop reports won’t be available until early next year, most of Florida's large-scale blueberry growers say it’s been a pretty good year.

But one “u-pick” blueberry operation in Jacksonville is being affected by consecutive days of nearly 100-degree heat and dry conditions.

Stewart Dowless, is the owner of Dowless U-Pick Blueberry Farm on Ricker Road in Jacksonville.

Dowlewss said, “We feel bad because when people come out to pick we want them to get all the berries they need or want.”

He and his wife have twenty acres; four of them have blueberries growing on them. They opened their farm in the McGirts Creek neighborhood in Jacksonville’s Westside in 1978.

At first, they were open everyday, all day. Now it’s only opened Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Although this season has been pretty good with a cold winter and no freezes after blooming time, Dowless says recent dry conditions and hot days have been hard on the crop.

“That’s farming for you. You just don’t know what it’s going to do,” Dowless said.

  “We irrigate at night, but that doesn’t do as good as the Lord does. They just don’t hold up good, if it gets really hot,” Dowless said.

“We’ve had four to five days of 100-degree heat, and when the berries are ready to go, and you come in with that heat and not a lot of cool water, it just doesn’t do well,” he said.

This is the first time Tim Crews has been here picking blueberries.

“There’s several that’s ready, but they’re smaller because of the drought,” Crews said. “You just have to pick more.”

Dowless says the season’s been quite good up until last week.

“I believe last Wednesday We sold over 300 pounds of blueberries,” Dowless said.

“That’s farming for you. You just don’t know what it’s going to do,” he said.

Michelle Corum joined WJCT as "Morning Edition" host in 2012 and has worked in public broadcasting as an announcer and reporter for public radio stations in Lawrence, Kansas, and Interlochen, Michigan. She also manages WJCT's Radio Reading Service for sight-impaired listeners.