TAVARES, Fla. – For spring, a Central Florida farm is going blue and allowing guests to pick their own fruit.
Just days away from the start of blueberry season, Brennan Hamill, director of operations at Far Reach Ranch, is preparing to welcome families to the farm. Its UPick experience allows you to pick your own blueberries straight from the bush.
“It’s all about the experience of coming out and being in nature. There’s not a lot of places like this where you can go and be isolated from roads and highways,” Hamill said. “You also get to see the process—how the plants produce the fruit, the difference between ripe and unripe fruit and some of the methods which we grow the produce that ends up in the grocery store.”
Each year, Far Reach Ranch produces more than 200,000 pounds of blueberries. They have three varieties: optimus, arcadia and meadowlarks.
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“Meadowlarks are like big, sweet eating berries that you can just eat on the car ride home. The arcadia and optimus are a little bit middle-of-the-road kind of berries and have more acidity and are better for baking, like, pies and are also good to eat,” Hamill said. “You start out with a bud, then that turns into a flower. The flower gets pollinated, and it starts to swell up and turns this greenish-red and keeps going paler green, pink and turns blue eventually.”
A tip for picking the perfect berries?
“You want to walk with the sun to your back so you can see the blue in the fruit. Looking against the sun may alter the appearance of the berries and after you pick them, you’ll realize they are more red than you thought. Basically go for the big, blue and beautiful berries,” Hamill said.
Far Reach Ranch grows a variety of produce, including strawberries, blackberries, peas and cabbage, with peaches on the way.
“The total property is 1,500 acres. Fourty of it crops. It takes all the natural stuff: soil, water, but mostly it’s TLC,” Hamill said.
It’s that same tender, loving care that Hamill’s family has put into the Tavares property for decades.
“It’s family-owned and operated for 80-plus years, so it’s important to us. We try to make it entertaining for every age group,” Hamill said.
Over the past few years, Far Reach Ranch has transformed the property into an event space with outdoor and indoor venues, a playground, dining areas and more, all while keeping the history of the ranch in view, like the packing house.
“The reason we call this building on property the ‘Packing House’ is because it was actually a packing facility for several years. It’s a large refrigeration building that used to be where the fruit (was) loaded when it (came) off the field. Next to it was an old barn that equipment would go into for servicing,” Hamill said.
Blueberry UPick is available at Far Reach Ranch starting March 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. There’s also Saturday sunset UPick offered from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The ranch also sells homemade jams, honey and other products on-site.
Every Thursday, Far Reach Ranch hosts Hayride Happy Hour with free hayrides, live music and food and drinks for purchase.
Tell us about your favorite UPick farm below in the comments.
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