The Official Florida Blueberry Festival just wrapped up its debut weekend in Kissimmee, but there’s still plenty of time to pick your own at Double C Bar Ranch – the biggest commercial and u-pick grower in the county.
It’s the second full year this rural operation has invited the public to take a break from the city and pick some fresh fruit for the day. Visitors can fill a plastic bucket to purchase by the pound at a small gift shop beside the field, or stock up on some pre-jarred jam and jelly at the same location.
They even sell blueberry bread to put it on.
The farm on Old Canoe Creek Road in Kenansville is owned and operated by the Chapman family, a clan best known for cattle and ranches operational in Osceola County since 1935. They’ve raised other fruit like oranges in the past but abandoned the venture a few years ago after citrus greening killed the crop.
The family decided to try farming blueberries because Central Florida blueberries are the first in the United States to ripen each season. It gives the farm an advantage in the domestic market for about a month - though it’s been a great year overall for production, said Denton Chapman, who oversees the farm. Crop yields were slow the first two years, but thanks to a mild winter and maturing plants, the Chapmans expect to harvest about 100,000 pounds of blueberries this season. They’ve cultivated 55,000 pounds so far, already surpassing last year’s yield. It takes the family and about 125 pickers four days a week to gather that much fruit.
The farm is high-tech and equipped with a Wi-Fi hotspot near the well that sends current temperature and rainfall information from the 20-acre farm directly to Denton’s cellphone. The farmer can also control the fertilizer and irrigation levels through the same app.
Double C Bar Ranch’s u-pick operation has been so successful, the Chapmans decided to add an extra day on Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visitors can also enjoy a freshly grilled burger grown on a nearby Chapman ranch on Saturdays and let the kids run around in a play area beside the fields.
“Some folks just like to come here and hang out, enjoy the weather,” Denton said. “We enjoy that, too.”
To build on the farm’s picturesque views, the Chapmans are hosting a blueberry 5k run this Saturday. The event is planned more as a “fun run,” with no official time records, and will wind its way around a dirt trail behind the blueberry fields.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of folks end up walking just to enjoy the nature around here,” Denton said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
U-pick opened the last weekend in February and should extend to the first weekend in May, depending on how long berries continue to ripen. After that, folks will have to wait until next year to satisfy their local berry cravings.
For more information about the operation, check out their Facebook page, Double C Bar Ranch Blueberries.