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October 30, 2014

Local charity benefits from Jacksonville Farmers Market's blueberry festival

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Posted: Saturday, August 2, 2014 8:43 pm | Updated: 8:52 pm, Sat Aug 2, 2014.

JACKSONVILLE —  Dave McCarty readjusted what remained of a few small blueberries baskets resting atop a folding table and looked up from his work at the Jacksonville Farmer’s market Saturday.

It was 9 a.m. and already Jerry’s Berries blueberry farm, of which McCarty is an employee, was quickly running out of its signature product. The farm brought about a dozen gallons of the plump, round berries to the market earlier in the morning, and organizers guessed that they would be sold out by noon.

The blueberry was the celebrated fruit at the Saturday market, which organizers called a blueberry festival. Jerry’s Berries’ table featured mounds of the berry and at least two more vendors sold blueberry jams and baked goods.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Kitty Phillips, a vendor who spent about one day preparing the blueberry products offered at her table.

Local residents say this year has had a bountiful blueberry season, but this weekend may be one of the last in which the berries are abundant in northeastern Alabama. Sheila Gilbert of Jerry’s Berries, said her berries were sweeter, and more plump this year, but her bushes are through producing for the summer.

Not every vendor participated in the event and most sold typical farmer's market fare, including peppers, tomatoes, corn and peaches. But, an organizer said the market decided to dub the Saturday sale a blueberry festival to capitalize on an annual event hosted by Jerry’s Berries.

Each year, near the end of the season, Jerry’s Berries, a  “pick your own” farm near Nesbit Lake Road allows patrons to pick for free, but asks that they return half of their bounty to the farm.

Then, at the weekend market, organizers said, Jerry’s Berries sells what remains and gives 100 percent of the proceeds to the Jacksonville Community Outreach Center, which uses the money to pay for students’ back-to-school supplies.

Debbie Merrill, an area Alpaca farmer, frequents the blueberry farm, where she stopped by to pick her own berries. But on Saturday she stopped by the farmers market, bought a few pre-picked berries and said she was happy to know her purchase will be used for the Outreach Center.

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