By Clint Thompson
COVID-19 struck in the middle of Denton Chapman’s U-pick blueberry season in Osceola County, Florida. Chapman had to pivot his business’ strategy on the fly and move strictly to a pre-pick operation.
The customers responded favorably.
“The pandemic started right when we were in the middle of our U-pick so we had to adjust,” said Chapman, with Double C Bar Ranch. “We chose to stop our U-pick. A lot of customers, they wanted to be out here, they wanted to get out. The best part about what we did, we went to a pre-pick operation where we pre-packaged and we did a drive-thru.
“It took us by surprise how many people wanted to get out and enjoy just getting some fresh air. They stayed in their cars and we did the pre-picking and delivered fruit right to their window. People they loved it.”
Chapman’s willingness to adjust during a time of uncertainty paid dividends for his business and possibly provided a blueprint for success next growing season.
“That was memorable for us. The joy of people when they came out, just to get some fresh berries picked that morning delivered right to their window was priceless for us,” Chapman said. “Anyone who’s about to start their U-pick operation, just plan well, plan your flow and your social distancing. People will get out. People want to get out and get to the farm, so you’ll be successful.”
Tips For U-Pick
Chapman offers tips to those blueberry producers who want to implement a U-pick element in their farming operation next year.
Marketing and advertising are key. The power of social media is the easiest, cheapest and quickest form of advertising.
Focus on the atmosphere of the farm. There needs to be plenty of shade and seating and entertainment for the kids.
Be willing to sell additional products. While the customers may be there primarily to pick blueberries, they may want to purchase additional products as well. Blueberry jam/jelly, drinks, snacks are easy things to have on sale in your gift shop.