Editor

Don’t miss ‘you pick’ fruit season

Blueberries will be available to pick in the spring.

It’s spring harvest season for pick-your-own fruit farms in Osceola County.

Blueberries, peaches, strawberries and blackberries are available this spring. Harvest seasons are short, so plan your picking days now!

Why support local agriculture?

Farms and ranches not only provide us food, but also offer scenic places to explore, exercise, socialize, learn and be entertained. They offer important habitat for wildlife, from butterflies to birds to bears. They preserve natural ecosystems like wetlands that we need to filter our water. We are losing Florida agricultural lands to development at an alarming rate. If we don’t actively support agriculture, it will disappear. When agricultural lands are developed, we lose the benefits they provide. If you want to keep our farms and ranches, buy Florida-grown foods and support local policies that protect agriculture and conservation lands.

Planning a farm visit

Remember to bring cash. Leave your dogs at home; farm food safety standards do not allow domestic animals in areas where food is harvested. Always watch kids carefully to keep them safe from possible dangers like ponds, cars and farms animals. Wash everything before eating it. Ask the farmers how to select ripe fruits and how to best store and prepare them.

Check fruit availability and hours of operation before visiting these St. Cloud-area farms. The farms’ Facebook pages offer the most up-to-date information; farmers are often too busy working during harvest season to answer phones. These farms also offer a variety of other items like vegetables, homemade jam, honey, crafts and plants for sale.

 Strawberries – in season mid-February through mid-April

• Mick Farms: 407-791-6873

 Blueberries – in season March through April

• B & G Ruck’s U-pick Blueberries: 407-928-1261

• Chapman’s Berries (check Facebook)

• Double C Bar Ranch Blueberries: 407-892-2414

• Florida Blueberry Festival, March 28-31, 2019, Kissimmee, FL: https://floridablueberryfestival.org/

 Peaches – In season during April

• Deer Park Peaches: 321-288-3030

• Premium Peach LLC: 407-448-9958

 Blackberries – In season May through mid-June

• Bill’s Berries and Crafts: 407-414-3314

After picking

Put fruit into the refrigerator as soon as you get it home to preserve fruit quality. Florida peaches are different than peaches you may have had before; many varieties are firmer and are harvested ripe and ready-to-eat, so don’t leave them out to ripen.  All fruits should be eaten or preserved within a day or two of harvest. For delicious fruit all year long, wash, bag, and freeze it. For information about farming and gardening and food preservation, contact the UF IFAS Extension-Osceola: http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/osceola/ , 321-697-3040.

Jessica Sullivan is a sustainable agriculture and food systems agent with UF/IFAS Extension – Osceola County.