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2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

Celebrate the Blueberry Season with the Keel family and our sponsors at the 2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

• Free Admission • Free Entertainment • Free Kids Area

• U-Pick Blueberries • Live Entertainment • Over 100 Food and Craft Vendors

* $5 Parking For information about vendor spaces, media inquiries, sponsorship, or general information about the festival, send us an email or call: 813.752.9100

5202 W. Thonotosassa Rd. Plant City, FL 33565



Sewing & Alterations

Welcome Plant City Observer

It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to the 2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. It seems like only yesterday that we hatched the idea for a Blueberry Festival to kick off our blueberry U-pick season here at Keel Farms. The seasons keep passing by, and, believe it or not, this will be our sixth festival. From the beginning, the Blueberry Festival has been a family event. At any given area, you Clay Keel may run into a number of Keel family members or Curley, for that matter. Many come all the way from Michigan and Illinois to help out for this, our capstone event. Along with them, the staff at Keel Farms and Keel and Curley Winery strives to makes it a fun, family friendly, low-cost event, at which anyone can come and have a great time picking berries, drinking wine or simply relaxing on the festival grounds. The main attraction, of course,


2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

to the Tampa Bay

Blueberry Festival

is our blueberries. Our 25 acres will hold thousands of pounds of fresh blueberries — ready to be picked by your family. Although we expect about twice as much fruit this year, we still recommend getting to the festival early to ensure access to the best fruit. Not to be overshadowed by our blueberries, our famous wine will be sampled and sold throughout the property. This includes two limited-edition wines that will only be available at the festival. One is a barrel-aged Dry Blueberry Wine. Like our traditional Blueberry Wine, this wine is made with Florida blueberries, but the barrel-aging adds an additional complexity for a more traditional dry wine flavor. The second wine is Strawberry Shortcake Wine. This edition uses strawberry sauce from the St. Clement Catholic Church Strawberry Shortcake stand to produce our first 100% strawberry wine. Look for these amazing wines at the festival. We’ve expanded our offerings

at the Blueberry Festival this year to make it the largest ever. We are excited to host the first Blueberry Pageant to accompany the festival, and the response for that event has been tremendous. Look for the girls Saturday afternoon at the festival. We also added laser tag and an arcade to our usual bounce houses in the kids area to keep the little ones busy. We added some great bands from the area both days, with experts on both wine and blueberries filling in the gaps on the Plant City Observer Stage. Of course, you will find some great craft and food vendors, including some terrific restaurants and food trucks. See our map and schedule on page 4 for more. We hope you come out and have a terrific time at the 2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. We are thrilled to host the event for another year and will work tirelessly to make this a fun, family friendly event for all. See you there! Clay Keel Keel and Curley Winery

table of


4 8 9

Festival Map and Schedule Blueberry Pageant History of the Blueberry Festival Meet the

10 Entertainment Keel and 12 About Curley Winery


Blueberry Picking Tips


Blueberry Recipes

Go to for festival coverage.

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2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival





WHEN: April 27 and 28 WHERE: Keel and Curley Winery, 5202 W. Thonotosassa Road, Plant City INFORMATION: (813) 7529100


WEBSITE: keelandcurleywinery. com/blueberryfestival



8 a.m.: Gates open and U-pick blueberries starts and continues while supplies last 9:30 a.m.: Blueberry wine-making and wine-pairing class by Keel and Curley winemaker Jared Gilbert, the Plant City Observer Stage 10 a.m.: Robert Harris Group (jazz), the Plant City Observer Stage 1:30 p.m.: Blueberry farming and tips on growing blueberries at home by Keel Farms Manager Ryan Keel, the Plant City Observer Stage

10:30 a.m.: Blueberry wine-making and wine-pairing class by Keel and Curley winemaker Jared Gilbert, the Plant City Observer Stage 11 a.m.: Charlie Olson and The Corkscrews (blues and classic rock), the Plant City Observer Stage

4:30 p.m.: Blueberry Recipe Contest finals

1:30 p.m.: Blueberry farming and tips on growing blueberries at home by Keel Farms Manager Ryan Keel, the Plant City Observer Stage

5 p.m.: Blueberry Queen presentation and Blueberry Royalty Court introduction

2 p.m.: Heffner and Hefner (jazz), the Plant City Observer Stage

2 p.m.: Faces South (classic rock), the Plant City Observer Stage

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Plant City Observer

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2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

Observer launches festival’s first

playtime By Amber Jurgensen | Associate Editor

Expanded Kids Zone offers games, laser tag for children Beep. Beep. Beep. That’s the sound of a semitrailer backing up on the pristine lawns of Keel and Curley Winery. But it’s not loaded with any wine-making equipment, bottles or wine glasses. Instead, it is filled with arcade games. The truck is a traveling arcade that makes appearances at special events and birthday parties. Owned by Gator Games, a company out of Brandon, it’s coming for the first time to the Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. The truck is among the new features at the festival’s Kids Zone. In the past, the area designated specifically for youngsters boasted a myriad of bounces houses to help burn off some of that

energy. But this year, Marketing and Events Manager Clay Keel says the winery wanted to expand the Kids Zone. Keel first saw the the Gator Games truck online. He was looking for some restaurant equipment when he stumbled across the interesting concept. “It was pretty neat,” Keel says. In addition to the game truck, Gator Games also will offer outdoor laser tag — complete with obstacles for the players to use as cover. “It was a plus that they also did the laser tag,” Keel says. The new Kids Zone will be located toward the northwest side of the property, past the gazebo. The arcade, owned by Brandonbased Gator Games, is housed completely in this truck.

Blueberry Recipe Contest Do you make an unbeatable blueberry cobbler? How about a muffin? Or maybe even a dinner entrée or relaxing cocktail? If so, the Plant City Observer, Keel and Curley Winery, Anna Maria Island Resorts and Costco Wholesale have partnered for the first Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival Blueberry Recipe Contest. Entering is simple. All you have to do is submit your favorite blueberry recipe, along with a short paragraph why it is your favorite. We’re not only looking for the tastiest recipes but also the best behind-theingredients story. We will choose five finalists, who will present their dishes at 4:30 p.m. April 27, at this year’s Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. A panel of celebrity judges then will choose a grandprize winner.

First place will receive a weekend getaway at an Anna Maria Island Resorts destination; second place will receive a case of Keel and Curley Blueberry Wine and an Exclusive Tour; third place will receive a $100 prize pack, courtesy of Costco Wholesale. Deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 21. To enter, visit the Plant City Observer’s website,, and click on the Blueberry Recipe Contest ad. You also may email your entries directly to General Manager Michael Eng, meng@ Good luck!

THE FINE PRINT Recipes must be original works and not taken from any published cookbooks. Finalists must be able to prepare and present their dishes at the Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. The judging will take place at 4:30 p.m. April 27, on the Plant City Observer Stage at Keel and Curley Winery, 5210 W. Thonotosassa Road, Plant City. Must be 21 or older to enter.

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2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

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2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

blueberry beauties By Amber Jurgensen | Associate Editor

First pageant to kick off Blueberry Festival Morgan Pierce has been named the Honorary Blueberry Princess. Since the first Blueberry Festival six years ago, event organizers have wanted to crown their own queen. That dream is coming true this year. The first Blueberry Festival Pageant will be held at 1 p.m. April 13, at Keel and Curley, 5210 Thonotosassa Road, Plant City. More than 100 girls will compete in seven age categories, with a Blueberry queen and Festival first maid Pageant winners WHEN: 1 p.m. in each April 13 category: Mini WHERE: Keel Blueberry and Curley, 5210 Bud, Thonotosassa 3- and Road, Plant City 4-yearTICKETS: $15 olds; Tiny PHONE: (813) Miss, 752-9100 5- and 6-yearolds; Little Miss, 7- to 9-yearolds; Pre-Teen, 10- to 12-yearolds; Junior, 13- to 15-yearolds; Teen 16- to 18-year-olds; and Miss, 19- to 23-year-olds. The pageant will include 60-second opening introductions of each contestant, an eveninggown portion and on-stage questions. For the younger

divisions, 3- to 12-year-olds, the question will be the same. For the older divisions, contestants will pick their questions from a fish bowl. The top winner from each age group will make appearances during the festival as the first Blueberry Court. “It’s just going to be a fun, fun pageant,” organizer Julie Hasting says. The contestants will be judged on poise and grace on stage, natural beauty, overall appearance, introduction and the on-stage question. Judges will be from out of town. “It’s not all about beauty,” coorganizer Brigittia Long says. “They need to be able to speak well and have confidence.” Each girl will receive a crown, T-shirt and goodie bag for participating. “If they have the courage to be there and compete, they should get something,” Hasting says. “We feel like every child is a winner, so we want to give them a winning gift.” One special princess also will make appearances at the

pageant and festival. Morgan Pierce, 10, will serve as the Honorary Blueberry Princess. At 5 years old, Pierce was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that affects the sympathetic nervous system. Now 10, she continues to fight the cancer and has become an advocate for childhood Morgan cancer. Pierce Pierce will crown all 120 contestants and raise awareness about childhood cancer. A portion of the proceeds from the pageant will be donated to her trust fund to pay for medical expenses. “I know not very many people out there know about childhood cancer,” Pierce says. “They have fun and live their lives, but there’s kids dying every day from cancer. It needs more awareness for research.” Hasting and Long contacted Pierce about becoming the princess. “I was really excited,” Pierce says. “I was smiling, dancing and jumping around.” “I really didn’t know if she’s want to do it or not,” Pierce’s

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mother, Emily, says. “But when she said, ‘Yes,’ I was excited for her, because she could be an advocate.” A budding fashion designer, who fills her drawing pads with custom outfits, Pierce’s favorite parts of pageants are the dresses. She will be rocking a light-blue gown she wore for the Junior Royalty Pageant earlier this year. However, Pierce does have one concern about the pageant. With seven age categories featuring contestants as old as 23, more than half of the girls will be older than her — and that means many will be taller, as well. “I’m not sure how they’re going to sort out the problem of me standing on my tippy toes to crown the girls,” Pierce says. Despite this minor setback, Pierce is excited to grace the stage and congratulate all the contestants. And, as a twotime Junior Royalty contestant, Pierce has some valuable advice for the Blueberry Pageant contestants. “Smile, and just look at the judges,” she says. “And don’t fall down!”

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Plant City Observer

2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival


HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL By Amber Jurgensen | Associate Editor

IN THE BEGINNING … Plant City’s Keel and Curley Winery launched its Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival six years ago. What started as a way to get rid of the last remaining berries of the season has flourished into a beloved tradition. The Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival launched in 2008, and it just may be the area’s sweetest secret. The festival began as a U-pick event at Keel and Curley Winery. Blueberries are grown in Florida until about March. Then, beginning in mid-April, they are grown all the way

from Georgia to Michigan. This gives Florida growers a narrow window to sell their blueberries. “We have about a 30- to 45day period, where demand is high enough to sell to grocery chains,” Clay Keel, event and marketing manager, says. Once other growers in the United States start selling in April, there is less demand for Florida blueberries. So, instead of trying to sell them, the winery decided to host a U-pick, as a way to clear the trees of the berries. With 25 acres of blueberries, there’s plenty of blueberries to be picked during the festival. However, Keel urges those who want to pick to come early. Last year, Keel says there were 500 people

on the field by 10 a.m. “It usually takes two days, with 125 people picking, to clear the fields, so you can imagine how quickly it’ll take with 500 people,” Keel says. “Get it while supplies lasts.” About 1,000 came through the fields during the first year of the festival. Last year, Keel and Curley nearly reached its capacity, with about 8,000 people coming through during the two-day event. From just three vendors, the festival has grown to host a variety of booths, including arts and crafts, non-profit organizations, food, desserts and more. “It really has caught on on its own,” Keel says.


With its growth, the festival has strived to add new features throughout its history. And, this year is no different.

The festival has made moves to attract more musical entertainment. This year, four bands will take the Plant City Observer Stage: Robert Harris, Faces South, The Corkscrews, and Heffner and Hefner (see profiles on pages 10 to 11). New additions to the Kids Zone include a traveling game truck filled with arcade games and a challenging laser tag course with obstacles and cover spots. And it couldn’t be a festival hosted by a winery without a little wine. Keel and Curley will be debuting two limitededition wines at the festival — Strawberry Shortcake and a new dry blueberry. The Strawberry Shortcake wine is being made from 100% strawberry juice left over from St. Clement Catholic Church’s shortcake booth at the Florida Strawberry Festival. The blueberry wine has been oak-aged for six months.

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2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

PERFORMERS By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor

robert harris group Robert Harris has built a reputation as one of the best jazz/R&B musicians in Central Florida and recently has garnered national attention. This will be the group’s first time performing at the Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival, but the group’s members are no strangers to performing at large festivals. Harris has performed at nationally recognized jazz festivals, including the Miami Jazz in the Garden Festival, Daytona Jazz Festival and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. There, he has opened for well-known jazz artists, such as Richard Elliot, Peter White and Jeff Golub. Harris has three studio releases, including his latest, “Miami Sun,” which has taken his career to new heights. Three songs off that album have charted, including the title track, which landed in the top 10 on the national indie charts and top 20 on the national charts. Harris has performed at Keel and Curley

Winery several times in the past and is excited to perform at his first Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. “We are looking forward to the show,” he says. “It should be a fun time.” Harris and his band brings an energy to the stage that he says people love. “There’s simply no other way to play live music,” he says about his playing style. A Detroit native, Harris cut his musical teeth on legends such as George Benson, Stevie Wonder and Hall & Oats, which inspired his musical aspirations at just 12 years old. He began playing guitar at 16 in the Detroit area and moved in 1978, to Seattle, where he spent several years touring the West Coast before finding his way to Los Angeles. There, he signed with West Management & Record Company and produced his first CD project, “Don’t Wait.” He built a talent and passion for the engineering side and worked

Faces South Comprising Plant City residents, Faces South has been together for three years, but the playing experience of the members dates back much longer. “A lot of us have been playing most of our lives,” says Terry Speer, a founding member and the keyboard and harmonica player. In its three years, the five-person group has performed at numerous events in Plant City, including the Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City Rotary Club events, the Wild Game Cookout for the Elks Lodge and last year’s Diamonds and Denim benefit for South Florida Baptist Hospital. Faces South has performed at Keel and Curly Winery on several occasions and was a Saturday performer at last year’s event. “It was a real nice turnout,” Speer says. “There are a lot of craft booths there and great bands and, of course, Keel and Curley selling its wine.”

for 10 years in L.A., arranging and producing projects as a studio musician and sideman. After moving to Florida, he has enjoyed his time touring in the Sunshine State. Harris will play as part of a trio at the Blueberry Festival, including Steve Takahashi on drums and Jimmy Seay on bass.

PERFORMANCE TIME: 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27, Plant City Observer Stage WEBSITE:

A variety band, Faces South specializes in playing music from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. When taking in a show, you are likely to hear anything from classic country and classic rock to blues and doo-wop. “We try to appeal to all ages and try to

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adapt the songs we play to our crowd that night,” Speer says. With the youngest member around 50 years old, the band is experienced and has a large song catalog. They musicians also know what it means to be true entertainers. “We try to get out and meet and interact with the crowd,” he says. “We usually have a lot of people that get up and dance at our shows.” Band members include Speer, his brother, Ken, Mike Franklin, Andy Fristch and Ben Waters. Mike Hilberth is the sound technician for the group. Although Walters is the lead singer for Faces South, all five members provide vocals during shows. “We try to play upbeat music,” says bassist Franklin. “We try to play stuff that makes you feel good and puts a bounce in your step. Having fun — that’s the main thing.”

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PERFORMANCE TIME: 10 a.m. Saturday April 27, Plant City Observer Stage WEBSITE:

Plant City Observer

2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival


PERFORMERS By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor

The Corkscrews (Charlie O. and The Houserockers) Charlie O. and The Houserockers will return to the Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival as a smaller, acoustic group, called The Corkscrews. The Houserockers performed at the 2012 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival as a full, sevenpiece band. The Corkscrews, a spinoff group, performs monthly Keel and Curley Winery on its “Uncorked Friday Nights.” “We came up with the name ‘Corkscrews’ to play on the winery,” says Charlie Olson, the lead vocalist and guitarist of the group. “We thought it was a great fit.” Although The Corkscrews may be smaller than The Houserockers, the audience can expect to hear a show featuring current hits, along with classic rock and country. “We’ll play pretty much anything people would love to hear,” Olson says.

The Corkscrews likely will feature four members, including longtime playing partner Kimo Rothrock. The duo have been playing together for 12 years. Olson moved to Plant City three years ago and says he loves the community and playing at Keel and Curley. “Keel and Curley is our favorite venue to play,” Olson says. “It’s a great venue, and we love the owners.” In addition to playing with The Corkscrews and The Houserockers at the winery, he also has performed with other acts there, including playing recently with friend Steve Grisham with The Outlaws. “The people who come out to the (Keel and Curley) shows are just the best kind of crowd to play for,” Olson says. “When you play at the winery, you don’t feel like you’re just background noise. The crowd really gets into it, and that’s what you want to see.”

Heffner & Hefner When Katherine Heffner was building her career as a jazz artist, her management team in Pittsburgh at the time decided she needed to switch up her name to be more recognizable. “They wanted to call me ‘Cat,’ but I didn’t like that, so we went with ‘Katt,’ adding an extra T and took one of the Fs off of my last name,” Hefner says. “It’s two Ts and one F. I liked it, and it just stuck.” Hefner has been singing since she was little, and her brother, Stan “The Man” Heffner, has been playing the organ since he was 16. “He was self-taught and was pretty much a child prodigy,” Hefner says. “He plays the Hammond B3, which is the organ. The boss. It doesn’t sound like any other.” The brother-sister duo has been playing together for a long time, but the five-member Heffner & Hefner band has been together about one year. Together, the band released its

PERFORMANCE TIME: 11 a.m. Sunday, April 28, Plant City Observer Stage WEBSITE:

Having played the venue many times, The Corkscrews are excited to play the acoustic show at the Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. “The full band played Sunday evening last year,” Olson says. “It was a great time. We love the Blueberry Festival and are happy to come back this year.”

PERFORMANCE TIME: 2 p.m. Sunday, April 28, Plant City Observer Stage WEBSITE:

first album, “Over & Under Blues.” The group features talented musicians, including saxophonist Butch Thomas, who has toured with Sting, Lenny Kravitz, Elton John, Diana Ross, James Taylor and more. Since forming, Heffner & Hefner have played shows and festivals throughout Tampa Bay,

including the Ybor City Jazz Festival, the Sarasota Jazz Festival and the Tampa Cigar Festival. This will be the group’s first time performing at Keel and Curley Winery. “We’re very honored to be playing the Blueberry Festival at Keel and Curley,” Hefner says. “Personally, I love their blackberry wine. I knew of them long before they knew of me. We have friends and fans in the area that are excited to come and see us.” As a solo artist, Hefner has had an impressive career, with three successful solo albums. She has headlined world tours and had a stint performing in Tokyo, Japan. Heffner & Hefner also has completed a musical play, “4 Faces of African-American Music,” which premiered in February. “People who come see us play will love the energy we bring,” Hefner says. “If they like good music, that’s what they’re going to get.”

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2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

uncorked By Amber Jurgensen | Associate Editor

Waste Not,

Want Not Keel and Curley Winery was born from the desire to use leftover blueberries.

After years of growing blueberries, owner Joe Keel wanted to do something with the leftover blueberries from his harvest. They still were quality berries, and he didn’t want them to go to waste.

So, Keel cooked up an idea for the excess crop in 2003. But, he didn’t want to make jellies, jams or preserves. He wanted to make wine. Keel started experimenting in the family farmhouse kitchen, with 10 gallons of blueberry wine. From that 10 gallons, he expanded, growing it into a full-fledged winery

that, today, produces more than 20,000 cases of wines annually.


With a tasting room and gift shop open seven days a week, you can taste and shop in one place. Every Friday, the winery offers a happy hour, and Saturday, glasses of wine are only $2. Bands and musicians perform until 10:30 p.m. every weekend, on the porch. The winery’s property is home to about 25 acres of blueberries, and with its second property, the business grows a total of 35 acres. Last year, the winery produced more than 300,000 bottles of wine. Blueberry wine constitutes about 30% of its production.


Keel and Curley produces three types of 100% blueberry

wines — sweet, semi-dry and dry. In July 2011, Keel and Curley debuted two new wines, dry blackberry and sweet blackberry. Both are made with 100% blackberries. In addition to those wines, Keel and Curley also has seven fusion wines. Fusion wines are blended with part grape-based wines, such as merlots or chardonnays, and fruit juices, such as strawberry. Keel and Curley’s fusion wines include strawberry riesling, wild berry pinot noir, tangerine zinfandel, Key West key lime, blackberry raspberry merlot and peach chardonnay. The winery has been working to get its wines into grocery stores throughout Tampa Bay. It recently expanded into Georgia and has a contract to distribute in 10 Walmart stores. Now, it is working to expand that agreement to 60 stores. It also recently closed a deal with Empire Distributing. “We’re definitely excited about that,” Clay Keel, events and marketing manager for the winery, says. “It’s hard to get in with a big-time distributor like that.” About two months ago, Keel and Curley released a collection of more traditional wines, including a cabernet and chardonnay. The grapes are grown in different locations and imported to the

Keel and Curley Winery ADDRESS: 5210 W. Thonotosassa Road, Plant City PHONE: (813) 752-9100 HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays

winery to be made into wine. “These wines are for those who don’t want a fruit-infused blend,” Keel says.


The winery is considering making beer under the brand, Two Henrys Brewing Co. The inspiration comes from Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. Both men played a part in developing Florida with the railroad. “It’s Florida history,” Keel says. “It relates to the entire state. They made Florida into what it is today.” Keel hopes to add another bar to the winery that would sell the beer, as well as another bar outside on the deck. At first, the company will make well-known brews, such as a lager, ale and IPA. It hopes to release them this fall. “It is an easy transition, because we already have a lot of the infrastructure,” Keel says.

2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

growth trend By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor


We’re No. 2

Blueberry crops and farming in Plant City have seen steady growth in recent years. Whether it’s signs welcoming guests to the city, branding with the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce or the annual Florida Strawberry Festival, there is no denying Plant City is, indeed, the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. The city takes pride in its famous crop, but another berry has found sustained success in Plant City and surrounding areas in recent years. “We got into it in 1997, and over these last four or five years, there has been a huge exponential increase in blueberry production in Hillsborough County,” says Ryan Keel, of Keel and Curley Winery. Keel says the initial market window for blueberries in Florida was high, and although that has diminished slightly, it still holds a good value. “It’s still the best crop-dollarper-acre value around,” he says. “There’s nothing that comes close to it.” Not even strawberries, which Keel says has a good return but comes at a high cost per acre. Additionally, although strawberries are considered a fairly tough crop to grow and maintain, blueberry crops usually have high success rates. “That’s one of the attractive things about blueberries,” Keel says. “It is a fairly easy crop to grow, if you know what you are doing.” The blueberry-growing season in Florida starts in late March and continues through April and early May. According to the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, the state is the only place in the world growing fresh

blueberries during about half of that season. Although production in Florida is significantly less than outputs up north, the prices per pound are usually better than those crops. “The industry is continuing to grow and the demand continues to grow,” says Gary Wishnatzki, owner of Plant City-based Wish Farms, a national produce broker, marketer, seller, shipper and packer. Wishnatzki says blueberries are following a similar trend as strawberries in the early 20th century, with many small and family-owned blueberry farms in the region. With high demand, the industry is shifting to need fewer total growers and more large-crop growers. Although there are not many large blueberry crops in Plant City, Wishnatzki says there are several 75- and 100-plus-acre farms, in a zone north of Plant City and also larger farms to the south in areas such as Arcadia. Blueberry crops still have a long way to go to reach the success and land coverage that strawberries boast, but the crop is making strides in the right direction. “Strawberries are certainly still the more popular crop, but it’s no secret that blueberry crops can be successful here,” Keel says.


The Benefits of the Blueberry

Blueberries are the star ingredient in many delicious recipes, but the berries themselves also are linked to many health benefits. The berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. One cup of blueberries delivers 14% of the recommended daily dose of fiber and nearly one-quarter of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. The United States Highbush Blueberry Council has been working with Column Five, pursuing four tracks to better understand the role blueberries play in promoting health. Those include cardiovascular health, brain health, insulin response and


A one-cup serving of blueberries contains only 80 calories and virtually no fat.

cancer-risk reduction. “Everything I’ve heard about it is that there are many health benefits,” says Ryan Keel, an experienced blueberry crop and farming expert with Keel and Curley Winery. “The two I hear most often are they they can help fight and prevent cancer and can help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.” A University of Florida research study found blueberry wine has more antioxidants than many traditional grape-based wines. “It’s suggested to have a steady diet of blueberries, especially in older older people,” Keel says. — Matt Mauney


Blueberries are an excellent source of manganese, which plays an important role in bone development and in converting proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy.


Research has shown that the berries are packed with phytonutrients, called polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These may help lessen the inflammatory process associated with chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and other age-related diseases.


One serving of blueberries delivers almost 25% of the daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C promotes a healthy immune system and helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries.


Fiber keeps the body regular, the heart healthy and cholesterol in check. Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council

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Plant City Observer

““ 14

2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

ADVICE By Amber Jurgensen | Associate Editor

Why The observer? “We are a new company trying to brand our logo and the quality of our service. When we advertised in the Plant City observer, our business felt an immediate upswing. Now,

we’ve built a wonderful relationship with the Plant City observer, and we plan to grow with them as we open new stores in the Tampa Bay area.”

JimBo sParks & AdAm harris

owners, Nick’s Pizzaria and Wings

How to Pick the

PerfectBlueberry Ryan Keel, of Keel and Curley Winery, has some good advice on what to look for when picking blueberries.

As the director of farming operations for Keel and Curley Winery, Ryan Keel knows a lot about blueberries. During blueberry picking season in April, Keel has about 100 pickers, whom he trains how to pick only the best blueberries. During the two days of the Blueberry Festival, visitors can join in on the last U-picks of the year. To help those new to picking blueberries, Keel has offered some advice to help you leave with plenty of perfectly plump berries.

COLOR You only want the bluest of the blue. Green or red ones aren’t ripe. Make sure to not only look at the top of the berry for color, but look on the bottom, as well. Too dark of a blueberry means it is overripe.

TEXTURE Check out the berries for any aesthetic damage, such as bird pecks or frost damage. If they have damage, throw them on the ground.

RIPENESS Overripe berries are dark blue and soft to the touch. If the berries are overripe, they tend to spoil more quickly than other berries. If an overripe berry is packaged with ripe berries, leakage from the overripe berry can cause the package to become moldy.



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Pick one berry at a time. Don’t grab the whole clump at one time. This will cause the stems to be pulled off with the berry. It may be faster to grab a whole clump at once, but later, you will have to pull out all the stems.

HANDLING The more you touch a blueberry, the softer they get. This can cause leakage, which will make the berry moldy and can contaminate other berries in your package. It’s best to leave the berries alone once they are in you basket.

t c e f Per gs n i d n E

Plant City Observer

By Amber Jurgensen | Associate Editor

For about 30 days in March and April, it’s time to pick and sell Florida blueberries. That’s all the time growers have before the season begins in other parts of the country. But during half of that narrow window, Florida is the only place in the world growing fresh blueberries. Local restaurateurs, growers and foodies have given us their best blueberry dessert recipes, so you can take full advantage of having the freshest ingredients right here in your own backyard.

BLUEBERRY COBBLER Xiomara Meeks knows good food. As the manager of Parkesdale Farm Market, she is able to get her hands on the freshest ingredients. One of her family’s favorite summer cookout recipes is a blueberry cobbler. They love to bring it to parties and serve it warm, topped with vanilla bean ice cream. INGREDIENTS 1 pint fresh blueberries 2 pounds ripe fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced 3 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces 3/4 cup uncooked oldfashioned rolled oats

METHOD • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. • Put the blueberries, peaches, sugar, flour, lemon juice and cinnamon in a baking tray. Toss to mix and then spread the fruit mixture evenly in the tray. • To make the topping, put the brown sugar and flour into a medium bowl and stir to mix well. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the oats with a fork. • Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit, then press gently. • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and lightly browned. • Top with vanilla bean ice cream.


As a major Florida Strawberry Festival sponsor, Wish Farms is a well known strawberry grower in Plant City. But strawberries aren’t the only berry in the patch. Wish Farms grows blueberries, as well, and the farm offers this delicious lemon blueberry cupcakes — a sure way to sweeten your day. INgREDIENTS Cupcakes 3/4 cup flour, sifted 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup unsalted butter

BLUEBERRY BITES The recipe for these delicious little morsels seems to make the rounds within the Plant City blueberry growers circle. We were given the recipe from Wayne Glover, of Alpha Growers Blueberries and Glover’s Blueberry Farms. He got the recipe from another grower, Patti Gunn. INGREDIENTS 3 packages Athens mini fillo shells (freezer section) Filling 1 8-ounce package cream cheese (room temp) 1 8-ounce package Cool Whip 1 cup white confectioners’ sugar  

Valerie DeArmond has been the face behind the counter of Stacy’s Consignment for years. Every Monday, she brings in desserts for her shoppers, drawing crowds from Plant City Towers, Miss Ruby, from her shop around the corner, and even the mailman. Here, she offers a unique spin on her grandmother’s fruity pudding. 2 cups powder sugar 1 large box vanilla instant pudding 3 cups milk

1 cup sugar 3/4 cup milk 4 ounces egg (2 eggs) Zest of 2 lemons 1 teaspoon lemon extract 2 teaspoon lemon juice 4.4-ounce container of blueberries

METHOD Cupcakes • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. • Cream the butter with the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the sugar and milk, mix for 7 minutes on low speed. • Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl a couple of times throughout the mixing. Slowly add the milk, eggs, lemon juice and lemon extract, adding in 3 stages, mixing for about 1 minute each time. (The batter will be a little thin and look curdled.) Stir in fresh blueberries and lemon zest.  • Spoon batter into lined cupcake pan, filling 2/3 full. Stir batter as needed. • Bake at 375 for about 17 minutes, depending on your oven. Check at 16 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. Let cool on cooling rack. • Top with lemon icing and garnish with fresh blueberries.


INGREDIENTS 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 pint blueberries 1 8-ounce package cream cheese


1 stick butter cubed 1 cup all-purpose flower 1 8-ounce carton heavy whipping cream

Topping 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup sugar 2 tablespoon cornstarch 4 cups blueberries

Lemon Butter Cream Icing 1 1/2 cup butter, room temperature 3 cup powdered sugar, sifted 1/4 cup lemon juice 2 teaspoon lemon extract Zest of 2 lemons, optional Lemon Icing • Cream the butter until pale in color and fluffy. • On low speed, add the sugar, in 3 or 4 stages, until well combined. • While mixing, add extract and start adding the lemon juice slowly. You don’t want to dump all of the liquid in at once, because this will vary according to consistency and taste. Adjust the lemon extract and lemon juice to your liking. You want the icing to be fluffy but not too loose. You want to be able to spread the icing onto the cupcake and hold its shape.

METHOD • Cook shells according to package instructions. Cool. • Beat cream cheese until smooth, then add sugar. Beat until smooth again, then fold in Cool Whip. • Fill a Ziploc bag with cream cheese mixture. Cut a small snip in corner. Squeeze a dollop into shells. • Mix water and sugar. Cook until clear. Add cornstarch. Thicken, then add blueberries and cook until berries start to burst. Cool. • Put a dollop on top of shells and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve.

METHOD • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. • Cut butter into flour until size of peas. Place in a 9-by-13 baking pan, covering the entire area. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool. • Mix whipping cream on high until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup powder sugar and vanilla. Mix thoroughly for 1 minute. Put into a bowl and set aside. • Mix cream cheese, 1 cup whipped cream and 1 cup powdered sugar. Spread over crust. Add blueberries. • Mix pudding and milk. Beat until thick. Spread over blueberries. • Cover with whipped cream and refrigerate for one hour. Serve.

2013 Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival

We can ship What you sold on ebay. We build custom boxes and crates. We pack and ship furniture.

Proud Sponsor of the Blueberry Festival

2505 Thonotosassa Road, Plant City, FL 33563



Blueberry Festival Guide 2013  

Blueberry Festival Guide 2013

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