A Fun Family Destination for “Picking” & Eating
By Aimee Robinette
For many decades, farmers have longed to help Americans make a food connection between farms to their tables. In a world where fast food is king, a grassroot effort was made by local producers and Nesbit Blueberry Plantation in Desota County is one such farm where families can not only make the connection, they can eat a little of it too.
“My father, George Traicoff, purchased the land with the idea of some sort of you pick crop. His mission was to give families the experience of a farm and for kids to know where their food really comes from,” says Terri Cooper. “He sent a soil sample to Mississippi State University and they sent back that it was perfect for blueberries.”
Cooper says at the time there were really no blueberries being grown in the South and for a long time theirs was the largest blueberry farm in the area.
“In 1984, we had our first crop. My mom, Pat, and her twin, Mary Gatewood, opened the farm in the mornings and dad would come relieve them in the early afternoon after work,” she explains. “The first day mom wasn’t sure if anybody would show and when she got there that morning there was a line of cars waiting!”
The rest is history.
“All my siblings and their children worked at the farm. It’s a very special place to all of us. When dad decided to retire, my husband, Chris, and I took over,” she says.
To show the family they were on the right path, Cooper says somewhere in the midst of growing their business the blueberry became the super berry for its antioxidants.
“That’s when huge blueberry farms in South Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida began cropping up,” she says. “Our customer base grew dramatically as well.”
Cooper says they don’t keep a tally of how many customers have passed through in a year, but notes that a big day is typically a couple of hundred people. “We are a harvest driven farm. When we have berries that will support our crowds, we are open.
She also says that the process is easy.
“When you get to the farm there will be a worker to direct you where to park and to the area we are picking. We have several varieties that come in one behind the other so each day we pick where the berries are best. Once in the right spot, the customer is given a gallon bucket and put on a bush,” she explains. “If it’s a first-time customer, a quick tutorial on what exactly to look for is given. As buckets are filled, the workers tag the buckets with the customer name and take them to the porch until time to check out. Many families know how many gallons they eat in a year (they freeze beautifully) so it’s not uncommon to see groups picking eight to twelve gallons or even more in a visit. We bag the berries for the customers to take home and those bags can go straight in the freezer. You do not wash before freezing.”
Cooper says they accept cash and checks. “You-pick berries are $13 a gallon. Pre-picked berries are $22. Pre-picked berries have to be ordered through the farm phone.”
The family also has advice for visiting the blueberry farm. Customers need to wear comfortable walking shoes (the farm is big, so walking is involved), sunscreen, a hat, and water are also necessary. Kids are always welcome. The family pet has to stay home,” she says.
Cooper also says they give details on which berries are ready for the picking. “You know a berry is ready when it has the white coating, called the blush. That means the sugar is there and it is sweet. A ripe berry also rolls off into your hand very easily. Customers are free to eat the berries as they pick. We don’t spray our bushes, blooms, or berries with any agricultural products,” she says. “Two points of pride at the farm are our premium berries and our friendly workers. We want the visit to be a fun experience for anyone who comes and we want them to leave with the best blueberries ever. Our customer feedback supports both of these statements.”
Besides wanting repeat customers, the family loves their tradition.
“The best part of owning the farm is the continuation of my dad’s mission and the friendships with our customers. We have been around thirty-seven years. The first kids that came are now bringing their grandchildren. It’s quite the legacy. And for me to see my grandchildren enjoying the farm is just another bonus,” she says.
That doesn’t mean everything is blueberries and cream. “One of the biggest challenges of the farm is the weather. We have had a run of three seasons with significant freeze damage from Easter snaps. We are currently working on frost-free irrigation to protect the berries during cold spring nights that hover around twenty-seven degrees. Temps lower than that are pretty much a guaranteed crop loss even with the frost-free irrigation,” she explains.
“Another challenge is the constant care of the field. The work is astronomical. From keeping tree saplings from growing up in the bushes, holding Virginia creeper and honeysuckle back, and all of this done one bush at a time. My dad retired from his job at fifty-five and spent the next twenty-five years working on the farm every single day without exception. My husband and I still have our ‘day jobs’ so it seems we are always working to catch up, but it’s a price we are willing to pay. The farm is definitely our happy place.”
For more information, log on to nesbitblueberry.com or visit their Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter accounts or for pre-picked berries, call the farm line 662-449-2983.