Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hills of N.C.'s Southern Piedmont about to become a major area for commercial blackberry production

In the hills of the North Carolina Piedmont west of Charlotte, where soybeans are the major crop, farmers are about to cash in on a growing national market for blackberries, driven by their antioxidant qualities, reports Rebecca Sulock of The Charlotte Observer.

SunnyRidge Farms of Florida has signed up "about a dozen" Lincoln County farmers with 120 acres for 2008, and plans to double the acreage by 2009 and open a distribution center early next year in adjoining Cleveland County. The growers "will fill a gap in the berry harvesting season, which will last four to five weeks longer than the season in Georgia," the Observer reports.

The company's production manager, Stanley Scarborough, told Sulock, "Lincoln County hopefully someday will be the Napa Valley of blackberries." But she cautions, "The plants aren't easy. They're expensive, require irrigation and are perishable when ripe. All those berries have to be gently plucked and put in coolers." Farmer Ervin Linberger of Kings Mountain told her, "We expect we'll have some problems getting labor for handpicking."(Read more)

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