FLAT TOP - The picking season is short on Blueberry Hill, where plump blueberries plucked from the bushes taste juicy, sweet and addictive.
One bite won't do. So, go right ahead and pick a bucket full for the bargain price of $1.99 a pound.
The 2013 picking season has begun and will likely last until the end of August as several varieties of blueberries ripen over the next few weeks, including Blueray, Berkeley, Coville, Duke and Bluecrop.
The farm is nestled on 100 acres of rolling land; the 12,000 blueberry bushes cover about 20 acres. All are tended by husband and wife Jim and Sue Beha.
The Mercer County farm has quite a following of pickers. The first day was July 9, when the bushes were loaded with ripe berries spurred in part by the generous, recent rainfalls, Jim said.
"We had over 100 vehicles here for six or seven hours," he said. "A good picker can pick a gallon in 20 minutes during peak season."
He estimated 1,000 gallons, or nearly three tons, were picked that day.
"Due to the rain and fertilization, we may get four or five ripenings per plant," he said.
The Behas have lived at Flat Top since 1977 and raised three children there. While picking blueberries at a farm in 1985, they decided to buy three bushes and plant them on a hill on their land. But they were busy and the bushes were neglected and eventually died.
"In 1989, my Pop offered to buy us 300 bushes if we would take care of them," Jim said. "Thank goodness he did."
With proper tending, the bushes flourished and the Behas added more over the years. As the farm grew, they kept in mind how roads would be strategically placed so pickers would have plenty of parking. The gates opened to the public in 1993.
Jim, 64, retired four years ago from his job as a mine safety specialist. Sue, 63, retired three years ago from her position as a Raleigh County teacher.
Tending the blueberry farm is now their full-time job.