A Santa Maria Valley berry business may be reaping benefits from a sense of “cabin fever” affecting people who have been adhering to public health orders to stay home and practice social distancing.
People have been converging on U-Pick Blueberries on Dominion Road to pick their own juicy berries while enjoying fresh air, sunshine and the hot temperatures that have bathed the Central Coast.
Customers from Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara have been joined by others who have driven from Santa Clarita 140 miles to the south and Salinas more than 150 miles to the north just to pick their berries, said Carol Mahoney, who owns the business with husband Mike, a fifth-generation Valley farmer.
The small, family-friendly farm, founded in 2009, offers several varieties of pesticide-free blueberries and organic strawberries for the picking.
Mahoney said business has been better than great since they announced the berry picking season would open April 22.
“It has been overwhelming, actually,” Mahoney said Wednesday, one day before Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed certain restrictions on retail businesses and manufacturing companies imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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“Every year it grows, but this year it has grown exponentially, I think, in part, because of the [coronavirus], possibly,” she said. “People are looking for something safe to do outside. This is safe, and we’re outside.
“And our rows are eight feet apart, so we’ve got plenty of distance,” she added. “So it’s been working out great.”
Mahoney said the company has mitigation measures to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus by sanitizing the buckets and baskets the business provides for picking, but customers are still asked to observe social distancing procedures.
Granddaughter Ellie Enos, 11, a student at Patterson Road Elementary School, likes to help sanitize the buckets and baskets after each use.
Ellie also cleans and sanitizes areas that might have been touched by the public at the stand where everyone begins the picking experience and pays for the berries after they’re picked.
The picking season generally runs from March or April until July.
But the expanding line of products offered by the company may also contribute to U-Pick Blueberries’ booming business.
Blackberries and cherry tomatoes will be available later this summer, while honey from hives kept on site and jams homemade from the farm’s fruit are also for sale.
This year, customers can also cut their own daffodils and lavender and pick up extra virgin olive oil made by the Ferrari family from their own organically grown olives.
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