Florida takes advantage of gap in blueberry market

AP News

11/2/2011 3:01:43 AM - AP News
HAWTHORNE, Fla. (AP) — When you think of Florida fruit, oranges, grapefruit and strawberries come to mind. But blueberries?Hundreds of small blueberry farms have opened in the Sunshine State in the past three decades, and blueberry production has increased more than tenfold in the past decade to an expected 20 million pounds or more this growing season.The industry has been helped by the development of warm-weather varieties at University of Florida, and farmers hope to capitalize on their climate by providing fresh blueberries when farms in the North can't.The state produces only a fraction of the blueberries that industry leader Michigan does, but from mid-March to mid-April, its farmers dominate the market.A measure of their success will be seen next spring when Florida holds its first blueberry festival in May.