John Hoblick, who handles farm sales for AgriStarts, a Florida-based tissue culture propagation company that supplies blackberry plants, notes that Arkansas has a good number of growers that stay on top of trends. He observed that larger farms have felt price pressure the past few years while smaller farms have fared well.”
“Since the beginning of COVID, the you-picks have done fairly well,” Hoblick said. “A lot of them have lines down the road of people waiting to get berries from their local you-pick farm, which is great.”
Hoblick said many blueberry growing operations are considering adding blackberries as a way to extend their season when it starts getting hot in the summer. Blackberries are a good addition for blueberry farms, he said.
“There is a lot of interest in blackberry growing in the last few years,” Hoblick said. “A lot of it has to do with the selection of new varieties that are coming out. They are always getting better. I remember when I was a kid, eating berries from those tiny brambles in the wild, and they were typically not very sweet. But now, you have these big, beautiful, sweet berries coming out, with higher sugar content, and the flavor of these new berries has done a lot for the marketing interest in that fruit.”
With markets being flooded with berries, it comes down to a choice between quantity and quality, according to Hoblick, who advised growers to diversify their crops and incorporate new varieties to increase quality.
“The marketers are going to be paying more attention to taste as much as volume and firmness,” he said. “That is the main thing I have been preaching for the last few years to growers: just make sure that your quality is increasing.”