The Jacksonville Farmers Market’s weekly Saturday sale will be transformed into a blueberry festival this week benefiting a local charity.
In addition to selling typical farm fare, merchants at the market will also have mounds of berries as well as blueberry jams, jellies and muffins for sale at the morning event, said market manager Marlin Preuninger.
The blueberry festival has benevolent roots, stemming from an annual fundraiser hosted by Jerry’s Berries blueberry farm northwest of Jacksonville. Each year, owners Sheila and Jerry Gilbert invite patrons to stop by and pick as many blueberries as possible free of charge.
Then, once through collecting berries, patrons are asked to return one half of their bounty to the Gilberts. The Gilberts then sell those berries at the Saturday market, giving all proceeds to the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center.
“It’s just our way of giving back,” Sheila Gilbert said. “This has been a very, very good year for blueberries.”
Gilbert said this will mark the first year the festival has coincided with the farm’s benevolent berry sale.
It’s not too late to participate in the charitable event, either by picking or buying the berries. Patrons can pick today at the farm, which Sheila Gilbert said may be producing the last of this season’s blueberry crop now.
The outreach center will use 100 percent of the blueberry process for the organization's back to school supplies drive, according to farmers market organizers.