Labor of love
Local couple tends blueberry farm
Photos by Rachel Howard
On Barkley Bridge Road, an acre of land is the site of more than 600 blueberry bushes. The aptly named farm, Barkley Blueberries, is owned and managed by husband-and-wife team Andrea and Zach Huff.
When the Huffs moved to Hartselle in 2019 and purchased their home, the land was vacant, and grass was waist-high. Zach said the couple knew they wanted to find a good use for it. They put Andrea’s agriculture background and their cumulative knowledge together to form Barkley Blueberries – and the pair have big goals for the future.
“I grew up in a rural area similar to Hartselle,” Andrea said. “My dad was an ag teacher, so I was around it my whole life, and I really enjoyed it.”
Andrea, who has family is the Tennessee Valley but grew up in Florida, studied soil and water science at the University of Florida before working for both the USDA and Alabama A&M. She said her family visited a local blueberry patch every summer when she was a child. It was a community experience that was enjoyed by patrons of all ages.
“Everyone in the community always went in the summer,” she said. “We thought we could plant a lot of blueberries on an acre. Everybody loves blueberries, and the U-pick is a big thing.”
The soil test results sealed the deal for the Huffs – the land, Zach explained, has a naturally low pH, which is ideal for growing blueberries.
Barkley Blueberries has been the very definition of a labor of love: No tractors were used to dig the holes to plant to bushes. “We hand dug every hole out here,” Zach said. “I think we moved 5-6,000 pounds of dirt by hand. It took us a year to do it.”
A 50/50 mix of peat moss and pine bark is the key to keeping the plants hydrated through the hot Alabama summer. “That peat moss will keep the water on the roots all summer long, and we won’t have to worry about them drying out as much,” Zach said. “We have drip irrigation laid out there, and it’s run to the house, so we just turn on the faucet, and it will water the whole field.”
The Huffs said they hope to open Barkley Blueberries up as a U-Pick farm and welcome the community to the homestead in a couple of years. It will take some time for the plants to reach maturity before that idea can come to fruition.
“Until the bushes get big enough to handle multiple pickers, we will be picking and selling at the Farmers Market here in town. We want to get them established and have their production up,” Andrea said. “Ideally, we want it to be a nice little family experience and for everyone to come out with their kids on Saturday mornings with the plants so good and big so that everyone can get as much as they want to get.
“We want it to be family-oriented, where people can come and learn something about blueberries or about farming,” she added. “It’s always nice to know where your food comes from and meet the people who grow it.”
Once they get established, blueberry plants can thrive for decades, Andrea said, so the Huffs are looking forward to their farm serving the Hartselle community for many years to come.
Keep up with the goings-on at Barkley Blueberries by following the Huffs’ pages on Facebook and Instagram. Fresh, local blueberries will be available for sale at the Hartselle Farmers Market Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. until noon.