Church Lake Farms
Church Lake Farms is a family owned and operated berry farm specializing in Florida Blueberries selling both commercially and to our U-Pick customers. We currently have 10 varieties of plants and are constantly trying and testing new varieties that suit our exact location and climate. Each year, rows of plants are removed and replaced with newer or different varieties. We are also in the process of adding Blackberries and Goji berries to our mix for our U-Pick customers to offer a wider variety.
We are located in Odessa off of Race Track Road approximately 6 miles North of Oldsmar in North West Hillsborough county. The entire harvest time is only once a year for only about 6 to 8 weeks. Our commercial picking season usually starts around the third or fourth week in March and will continue approximately four weeks. We open the farm up to our U-Pick customers usually around the third or fourth week in April and will continue until the fruit is gone. When the Blackberries are producing starting in the 2014 season, out U-pick dates will be extended.
After our harvest each year, the plants which could reach heights of up to seven feet are trimmed and pruned down to a height of about three feet. Our fields are then replenished with several hundred cubic yards of fine pine bark and our fertilization and maintenance schedule will start to prepare our farm for next years season.
Our Berry Varieties
The Emerald variety was released as a patented variety by the University of Florida in 1999 and is one of the most widely planted types in North-Central Florida from Gainesville to Sebring. The Emerald is a vigorous, upright bush with a high yield potential, early ripening with largehigh quality berries. The Emerald Flowers open uniformly and produces abundant leaves even after mild winters. The plant normally reaches full bloom near mid-March and harvest normally occurs between April 15th and May 10th. The bush is vigorous and spreading. The fruit is very large, firm with a medium blue color with excellent flavor and a small scar.
was released by the USDA in 1987. It is not patented and may be propagated without restrictions. Plants are vigorous, semi-upright with medium to high productivity. Fruit are medium in size and firm with good flavor. Gulf Coast has been widely used as a pollinizer for Sharpblue and Misty. It has preformed better than most varieties in southwest Florida. A major problem associated with Gulf Coast is a tendency for stems to remain attached to fruit during harvest. This can cause additional expense during picking and grading. Gulf Coast remains one of the more widely grown varieties south of I-4.
is a patented release from the University of Florida breeding program with a moderately low chilling requirement, very early ripening, and high berry quality. In Gainesville, Jewel typically flowers about February 16 and begins ripening about 5 days earlier than Sharpblue. The average date when commercial harvest for Jewel begins in Gainesville is about April 15 and harvest is normally finished by May 12. Jewel produces a large number of flower buds but leafs well in the spring. Vigor is about equal to Sharpblue but Jewel is shorter and more spreading than Sharpblue. Berry quality is excellent but tends to be tart until fully ripe. Berry size is about equal to Sharpblue, but firmness and scar are much better than Sharpblue.
‘Springhigh’ produces a large berry that ripens early in the spring. The berry is as large or larger than those on Star, Jewel, and Emerald. The berry has good scar, firmness, and flavor, but is not exceptional for any of these traits. The berry is somewhat dark, but it is not darker than Duke, and its color is acceptable for an early berry. Because the berries are large and only medium firm, they need to be harvested on a 5-day schedule. The berry clusters are fairly open, and the berries can be harvested rapidly by hand.
is a new southern highbush blueberry variety that has the following unique combination of characteristics that set it apart from other blueberry cultivars. a. Has a low chilling requirement. Both leaf and flower buds break dormancy in the early spring, even in areas receiving as little as 200 hours per winter with temperatures below 7° C. b. Produces berries that are large, firm, medium blue in color, and have a small, dry picking scar. c. Ripens most of its berries between April 5 and May 1 in Sebring, Fla. and between April 15 and May 10 in Windsor, Fla. At Windsor, it averages ripening about 5 days earlier than ‘Star’ (U.S. Plant Pat. No. 10,675), ‘Emerald’ (U.S. Plant Pat. No. 12,165), and ‘Jewel’ (U.S. Plant Pat. No. 11,807). d. Produces a semi-erect bush with medium vigor and good ability to persist in the field. e. ‘Springwide’ differs from its parents in many details, as would be expected for a seedling from a cross between two highly-heterozygous clones. Compared to parent FL83-132, ‘Springwide’ flowers much earlier in the spring (reflecting a lower chilling requirement), ripens earlier in the season, and produces a berry that is lighter blue in color. The berry of FL83-132 is quite dark. Compared to the other parent, ‘Sharpblue’, ‘Springwide’ ripens a week earlier and produces a berry with a much better (smaller, drier) picking scar. In addition, berry size does not decline precipitously between the first and last picking of the season on ‘Springwide’ as it does with ‘Sharpblue’.
is vigorous, with stout stems and a semi-spreading growth habit. The mean date of 50% open flower in Alachua County averages about February 23. Windsor leafs out strongly as it begins to flower, and this strong leafing enables it to support a large crop. In Alachua County, the first commercial hand harvest on Windsor (10% of the crop ripe) averages about April 15, and 50% of the berries are normally ripe by April 28. Windsor berries are very large. Berries from the first half of the harvest average about 2.4 grams on young vigorous plants. The berries are about the same color as those of Sharpblue and Star. It has good firmness and flavor. Although Windsor grows and fruits well, it has lost favor among growers because of the deep picking scar which complicates packing and reduces post-harvest life.