Fresh air, sunshine, and healthy, delicious berries fresh off the bush are the perfect combination for a fun and rewarding family outing. The Upper East Side of Texas is home to several berry farms where guests can pick their own or buy pre-picked in a variety of container sizes.
Blueberry Hill Farms in Edom runs one of the largest you-pick farms in the region. Now in their 20th year, owners Chuck and Sherri Arena predict an especially good crop on their 10-acre farm this year, with a yield of up to 75,000 pounds of big, ripe, juicy blueberries. In fact, 2020 will rank as one of their record crops, Sherri says.
Several favorable conditions contributed, she says, including a thorough pruning last fall, no late freezes in February and March, and plenty of rain and warm spring temperatures.
“Right now with all the rain, we have not turned on the well,” Arena said, their usual method of watering when Mother Nature doesn’t do it for them.
Conditions are so favorable that the Arenas anticipate opening the farm a week earlier this year — May 22 (Memorial Day weekend) instead of the first of June and they’ll continue as usual through July. Blackberries, which take a little longer to mature, ripen and are available in June.
“The longer the berries stay on the vine, the bigger they become,” Sherri said. “The heat ripens the fruits faster.”
Blueberry Hill Farm’s 10 acres offer plenty of room for folks to spread out while picking, and new hand-washing stations were added in the field to help keep sanitation in the forefront. They also do curbside service for visitors who want to purchase items without leaving their vehicles.
The farm’s country store is full of treats including blueberry lemonade, pies, muffins, jams, and turnovers. Blueberry ice cream is the farm’s most popular treat -- a nice cool down for hot pickers.
Like many berry farms in the region, Blueberry Hill does not use pesticides. Besides berries, the Arenas sell blueberry juice to people who want to super-charge their immune systems.
“Blueberries contain antioxidants, which boost the immune system,” Arena said. “Some people take it in shots every day.”
Farms in the region open when the berries ripen, which is usually the first week in June — call ahead to check days and hours. This year, some farms may require visitors to make an appointment so pickers can spread out, another reason to call ahead.
Most berry farms open early (some at 7 a.m.), so round up the crew and head out early to beat the midday heat, which soars to 95 degrees in June and above 100 in July.
For those picking their own berries, dress for the hot, hot summer. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and wear cool, comfortable clothes. Sturdy, closed-toed shoes that can withstand mud, sharp rocks or sticks, and occasional ant piles are suggested. Bring water or sports drinks to stay hydrated. Baskets, pails, or tubs are also useful for filling with berries and add a personal touch, but some berry farms furnish their own buckets.
Berry farms dot the Upper East Side of Texas, both north and south of Interstate 20, but they’re far from the same. They each offer their own attractions. Some venues offer berry picking with vegetable picking, while others offer a variety of delicious confections for sale in their country stores. Visitors who can’t pick enough can usually buy pre-picked berries by the gallon, fresh or frozen.
Alexander Blueberry Farms. Pick your own blueberries, then download some of their tasty recipes to try at home. 194 CR 3221 Deberry, Texas 75639, (903) 263-7803, www.alexanderblueberryfarms.com.
Alford Family Farms. Pick your own blueberries and blackberries and purchase squash, tomatoes, and corn. 199 Private Road 6181, Emory, Texas, 75440, (903) 474-7629, www.alfordfamilyfarm.com.
Blueberry Hill Farms. Blueberries, blueberry ice cream, blueberry pies, blueberry lemonade, and honey from the blueberry flower. 10268 FM 314, Edom, Texas 75756, (903) 852-6175, www.blueberryhillfarms.com.
Blueberry Ridge Farm. Offers blueberry picking and event hosting. 2785 E. Hwy. 80, Mineola, Texas 75773, (903) 569-1550, www.blueberryridgefarm.com.
Echo Springs Blueberry Farm. Pick your own or purchase; honey, jams, jellies, and syrups available. 7235 FM 607, Brownsboro, Texas, 75778, (903) 852-5277, www.echospringsblueberryfarm.com.
Greer Farm. Pick your own blueberries and blackberries then shop for beef, pork, eggs, and jams and sauces. 1444 CR 1125, Daingerfield, Texas 75638, (903) 645-3232, www.greerfarm.com.
Lake Creek Blueberry Farm. Pick blueberries by the gallon. 1471 W. 321, Montalba, Texas, 75853, (903) 386-8200, www.lakecreekblueberries.org.
Panola Orchard and Gardens. Pick blackberries and blueberries and shop for more in the country store. 1413 FM 1186, DeBerry, Texas, 75639, (903) 263-8703, www.panolaorchard.com.
The Blueberry Farm. Berries plus scenery. 982 Texas 37, Quitman, Texas, 75783, (903) 497-6028, www.the-blueberry-farm.com.
Tyler Blueberry Farm. Blueberries only. 9628 County Road 429, Tyler, Texas, 75704, (903) 526-4440, www.tylerblueberry.com.