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Berry good

Debra Greene has lived in this area all her life. Even so, Ms. Greene found a new experience in Thomson last week -- picking blueberries.

"It's my first time," said Ms. Greene, who lives in Grovetown. "I can't believe I've lived here all my life and never picked blueberries before. It's definitely addictive. I'm so excited, I think I'm going to bring my grandchildren next time."

Ms. Greene's first berry-picking experience was at Bernice's Blueberry Patch on Salem Road in Thomson. Berry lovers can pick their own for $1.25 per pound, or order them already picked for $3 per pound.

The berry farm opened last weekend, and the season usually runs for approximately six weeks, according to owner Bernice Richards. The fruit doesn't ripen after it's picked, and it has to stay on the bush for 10 days after it turns blue before it sweetens, Ms. Richards said.

And she should know. Years ago, Ms. Richards and her husband, George, purchased the property on Salem Road, cleared the pines and planted several varieties of blueberry plants. They ran their pick-your-own farm for 26 years until Mr. Richards' health declined in the early 1990s. Three years ago, Ms. Richards reopened the farm with great success. She has between 1,500 and 3,000 plants that are irrigated by a large fishing pond on the property.

"I like these high bushes, so you don't have to bend over to get the berries," Fred Peronto said as he picked berries last Friday.

Mr. Peronto said he was from New Hampshire, where he picked blueberries "between the mountains with a cool breeze blowing." However, when the cold winters became "unbearable," he and his wife, Jeanne, moved to Thomson.

"Well, I just go from my air conditioned house, to my air conditioned car, to the air conditioned mall. Then reverse it all for the trip back home," he quipped as he wiped the sweat from his brow. "Really, this just makes me look forward to going home today."

Mrs. Peronto said blueberry pie is her husband's favorite, and they freeze the berries so she can make pie all year long.

Although the farm is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Ms. Richards said most people come early in the morning to beat the heat.

"Last year, we wore long sleeves when we first opened in the mornings, because it was cool. We definitely don't do that this year, it's really hot," she said.

The farm is located at 1344 Salem Road in Thomson. Cold drinks are sold for reasonable prices. There are no public restrooms.

Call 706-595-7251 for more information.

Web posted on Thursday, July 01, 2010

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