Farmers say it was a rocky start to blackberry season

Monday, June 9, 2014 - 5:36pm

The late freezes we had this year caused a rocky start for the blackberry season. Blackberry farmers lost 80% of their crop because of the late freezes in March and April. They had to start picking later but fortunately, it will be a pretty good year.

Victor Zillmer has two acres of blackberries and sells them weekly at the farmers market in Lindale and Tyler.

"This year it's been somewhat mixed for us."

Zillmer said cold winters are usually good for blackberry growth.

"It gives them a lot of cold time, the plant stays healthy, it doesn't burn much energy in the winter time," said Zillmer.

But, because of the late freezes, he lost 40% of his early crop.

"When the plant is dormant, it can take a lot of cold and actually prefers the cold, but once it breaks dormancy and starts growing, freezes are very devastating. The frost came so hard on the fourth of March when they already broken dormancy and the flowers were frozen off."

Even though there were few blackberries this year, he is not going to raise his prices.

But, what about the other berry family, strawberries, blueberries, and what about the peaches?

"Peaches and blueberries are available but not in big numbers," said Zillmer.

Farmers expect the berries and other summer fruit to be fine especially for this weekend's Blueberry Festival in Nacogdoches.

"We actually had some pretty good weather for blueberry production. I heard this from one of our local farmers with the rain that we've gotten and the sunshine and the warm weather now, we're really going to enjoy some perfect blueberries, delicious blueberries," said Kelly Daniel, with the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce.

A new company will be distributing the blueberries at this year's Texas Blueberry festival. For years, Mill Creek Farm was part of the festival, but now Brookshire Brothers is taking over.

Daniel said the owners of Mill Creek Farm decided to move their company into other forms of agriculture other than the blueberry production. Brookshire Brother will take over and have the fresh blueberries for the famous festival. The name of the spot will be "The place to be," located on the 400 block of E. Main St.

"We're happy with the partnership we have with Brookshire Brother's. We've even been happy with the smaller farms, the pick your own farms. We have here in Nacogdoches with everyone making sure that Nacogdoches still has some delicious blueberries at the festival." said Daniel.

The 25th annual Texas Blueberry festival will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, June 14.

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