Almond Farms hosts first Blackberry Festival
Getting to the Almond Farm in Millingport takes only two turns off N.C. Highway 73.
Visitors on Saturday to the farm’s Blackberry Festival made those two turns and enjoyed picking berries and eating barbecue.
Vendors sold jewelry and other products while blackberry aficionados bought blackberry jam and other related products.
Earl Almond, farm owner, estimated the free festival had between 500 and 750 people in attendance for the one-day event.
Almond Farm, a destination for live Christmas trees during the holidays, is also the home of Big E’s Smoke House barbecue. Along with the festival, a fundraiser for 4-year-old leukemia patient Tate Whitley sold out of plates, 300 of them.
Whitley was able to pick berries and be in public for the first time in nearly a year due to chemotherapy treatments. He will continue to be in treatment for two more years.
Tate and other kids got to play in the playground and pet Buzz Lightyear, the farm’s resident donkey. The kids having fun was a highlight for Almond.
“I love to see the kids having a good time, picking berries,” Almond said, noting many attendees relayed to him how well maintained the blackberry bushes were. Some were apprehensive to pick berries, but the bushes are well-trussed and maintained with only good bugs, Almond added.
Maintaining an organic blackberry and Christmas tree farm is important to the Almonds.
“I don’t use any pesticides at all; it helps the yield. You have to be careful dealing with mother nature. You can eliminate some of the bad bugs without destroying the good ones,” Almond said.
Almond said many people did not know about the blackberries and the barbecue. He also received a number of complements on both.
“(The festival) got the word out about (the blackberries) and the Christmas trees,” Almond said.
Almond said he learned a lot from this year’s event and hopes to have more vendors next year.
“We learned a lot this first time; we will take that and learn what our mistakes were and improve on them. I want to make it bigger for next year and add more events,” Almond said.
He hopes next year to have a blackberry cobbler contest with judges and samples for people to try. He also said they are thinking of different ways to “let people know what they can make out of blackberries, not just pies.”