Country View: Florida Blueberries - David Hill - Clermont, FL
Radio interview source: David Hill, Farm Owner
David Hill had plans to become an attorney when he got out of college, but he married into a farm family that grew vegetables. The state of Florida bought out the family farm in 1998 in an effort to restore a lake.
David decided to stay in agriculture, and wanted something with profit potential. He now owns 80-acres of landscape trees and 40-acres of blueberries in Clermont, Florida.
"We got in with another large tree grower, so we contract grow with them and we grow all their trees, they take them and step them up, that's how we got into the tree deal," says David. "The berries, we have a packer and marketer. We hand pick our berries and we transport them to the packing house. They grade, sort, cool, and then sell and ship the berries."
Blueberries aren't native to central Florida, but there are varieties that grow there. David's son Michael graduated from college with an agricultural economics degree and also put in a lot of time with his father learning what it takes to grow blueberries.
They have sandy soil, so the Hills irrigate the berries at ground level. The land is serviced by reclaimed water from Orange County and the city of Orlando. They also have overhead irrigation for freeze protection.
Tourism is the biggest draw in central Florida, but David says he's pretty popular too.
"The people I know don't know any farmers but me, and they think it's the coolest thing in the world that they know a farmer. And it's sad, but I get to educate a lot of people about farming. Where we are, I can see Disney, I can see it from the gate. But it's in a rural area and there's no houses close by within miles, so it's ideal."
David says his biggest fear is that there will eventually be houses next to them and then he'll have to deal with that.
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