Arrive at Hard Labor Creek Blueberry Farm in Social Circle at dawn to avoid the crowds and the heat. Wind down a long drive, past the garage and a giant fig tree. Tie a bucket around your waist with one of the hanging lengths of rope and then step among 1,200 of the prettiest blueberry bushes you could ever hope to see.
Based on the scads of white blossoms that covered the groomed plants this spring, and barring a late frost, Bill Kitchen anticipates one of the best—and earliest—harvests he’s seen since planting blueberries twenty-eight years ago. It was a postretirement plan that turned into a second three-decade career. Now eighty-three, he’d like to retire again, but the tight real estate market has forced Kitchen and his wife, Carolyn, to stay put.
That’s lucky for us. Tidy rows of shoulder-high branches loaded with fruit make picking a joy. Seven cultivars, carefully labeled by row, ensure berries ripen from mid-June through mid-August. Traps keep insects under control, so berries are never sprayed. Kitchen’s favorite is a midseason variety called Baldwin—he likes its concentrated taste the best, he says. Pay $1.65 per pound for whatever lands in your bucket. What ends up in your mouth is on the house. Hard Labor Creek Blueberry Farm, 38 Knox Chapel Road, Social Circle, 770-464-2412. Open daylight to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, during harvest (early June to mid-August).
Photograph by Istockphoto.com