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Local Blackberries fat, juicy and oh so good

Who doesn’t love a fat juicy blackberry? There are some really good blackberries growing closer than you might think.
Darrell and Faye Smith have opened their blackberry farm to you pick customers this summer. R&S Blackberries, which was named for their grandsons Noah Ray and Hudson Smith, is selling blackberries for $4 a pound if you pick, $6 a pound if they pick. The Smiths even sell their delicious berries frozen.
The idea of planting blackberries all started a few years ago when they were making plans for retirement. The plan was to have a hobby to keep themselves busy during their retirement years. About three years ago they planted their first rows of blackberry bushes on their home place just a few miles west of Bell on CR 346. All total, they have about an acre of blackberry bushes. Some bushes are young and some older ones have large amounts of berries on their canes this summer.
Darrell said the blackberry farm was still a work in progress. He said they are still learning the best ways to grow the Osage and Freedom thornless blackberries. The berries that the Smiths are growing were developed at the University of Arkansas. Faye said for several years they have attended a conference for berry growers in Savannah, Georgia. The Smiths have learned about the growing of blackberries from the conference. They have also met and visited several other Florida growers in Mayo and Brooksville which have helped them with valuable information. Both Darrell and Faye have backgrounds in agriculture. Darrell remembers working with his grandfather growing tobacco and other crops, while Faye grew up on the Shepherd family farm and recalls working in watermelons each summer. They both went on to have careers off the farm. Darrell recently retired from Suwannee River Water Management District and Faye retired from teaching school at Bell Elementary. They plan to spend their retirement years enjoying their grandchildren and growing juicy blackberries for their community.
Of all the people who come to pick berries, Darrell said he and Faye enjoy watching the children the most. They often see the little ones with blackberry juice dripping down they chins and all over their shirts. Because the Smiths grow thornless berries they are easy for any age to pick.
Blackberry season at R&S Blackberries starts around the last of May and runs until end of June or early part of July.
Faye said their family has really enjoyed the blackberries this summer. She and her mother, Nina Sue Shepherd have enjoyed making blackberry jelly and her father-in-law, Ronnie Smith recently requested Blackberry Doobie and homemade ice cream.
The blackberry bushes need a good bit of care throughout the year, after they stop bearing then the old canes have to be pruned away. Needless to say the Smiths stay pretty busy in the berry patch.