Make us your home page

Packing house opening near Brooksville just in time for blueberry season

BROOKSVILLE — A former egg farm soon will be stained with blueberries as a Michigan-based farm begins operating it as a packing house.

Crews recently moved into the 20,000-square-foot building, said Tim Spiech, chief operations officer for Spiech Farms based in Paw Paw, Mich. Pronounced like "speech," the farm specializes in blueberries, grapes and asparagus in southwest Michigan, Georgia and Florida. The new packing operation is on Ayers Road near the Hernando County Airport Industrial Park.

The operation was located in Tarpon Springs, but its lease was due to expire. Company officials considered a site in Hudson but ultimately settled on the property south of the city limits.

The packing operation serves about eight area farms from Hudson to Inverness and Webster but with a larger facility is seeking to expand.

A big selling point it uses is an accounting system that it describes as "real time and online."

Workers picking berries wear badges with bar codes that identify the grower. The codes are scanned by Bluetooth scales in the fields. The scales feed information directly to the online application.

Growers can then access the information and see how much the picker is to be paid, as well as how many pounds have been harvested.

Spiech said the process, which has been under development for four years, is unique to Spiech Farms. It removes the guesswork of figuring out returns.

"This used to be done by hand," he said. "Now the grower sees what he's getting."

Spiech said the company leased the facility for two years and then will evaluate whether to stay.

The move comes right before the start of Florida's blueberry season, which runs from late March or early April to mid May.

Florida's six-week season is short compared to other parts of the world, but it kicks off the season for the United States. It enters the market right after Chile, a huge producer, and just before its northern neighbor, Georgia.

This year's harvest is expected to reach about 25 million pounds, according to

Local growers also report a healthy harvest.

"The crop is looking fantastic," said Tony Harris, who grows berries on 5 acres of his family's Ergle Christmas Tree Farm north of Dade City. "We're just hoping the birds aren't too bad this year. I don't want to mention it too much and jinx myself."

For Brooksville, the announcement that Spiech Farms chose the area for its operations couldn't come at a better time, economic development officials said.

"It's perfect timing with the Blueberry Festival right around the corner," said Valerie Pianta, Hernando's supervisor of economic development. She said the county looks forward to working with Spiech as its sets up shop.

"It's so good to see that building getting filled," she said. "It's a perfect match."

>>fast facts

Festival on horizon

The Florida Blueberry Festival is set for April 12-13 in downtown Brooksville. Visit for information.

Packing house opening near Brooksville just in time for blueberry season 03/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 7:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. As Dow hits new high, Raymond James Financial reports record financial gains


    On the same day that the Dow closed at new highs, investment firm Raymond James Financial reported record revenues and earnings for its fiscal third quarter that ended June 30.

    Raymond James Financial CEO Paul Reilly unveiled record quarterly revenues and earnings for the St. Petersburg-based investment firm. [Courtesy of Raymond James Financial]
  2. Florida GDP growth in first quarter 2017 ranks 21st among states, still outpacing U.S.

    Economic Development

    Florida's gross domestic product or GDP rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter, slightly faster than the nation's growth of 1.2 percent and placing Florida 21st among the states for growth rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    Not too hot. Not too cold.

    These Jackson Square Townhomes began hitting the west Hillsborough County market late last year and continued to be sold into the first quarter of 2017. The real estate sector was the biggest driver of Florida's gross domestic product, which rose 1.4 percent in the first quartrer of 2017.  [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  3. A new app will help you find your favorite Tampa Bay food trucks

    Food & Dining

    What's new: Food tech

    Local food businesses are embracing new technologies and partnerships to bring us extra deliciousness.

    Michael Blasco of Tampa Bay Food Trucks says that everyone always asked about an app to help find their favorite food trucks. There is, available for iPhones and Droids.
  4. Another Pinellas foreclosure auction fools bidders, raises questions

    Real Estate

    For the second time in six weeks, a company connected to lawyer Roy C. Skelton stood poised to profit from a Pinellas County foreclosure auction that confused even experienced real estate investors.

    A Palm Harbor company bid  $112,300 for  this Largo townhome at a foreclosure auction July 21 not realizing the auction involved a second mortgage, connected to lawyer and  real estate investor Roy Skelton -- and that the bank could still foreclose on the  first mortgage.
  5. Clearwater-based USAmeriBank acquired by New Jersey bank in $816 million deal


    CLEARWATER — USAmeriBancorp, Inc., based in Clearwater, is being acquired by New Jersey's Valley National Bancorp in an $816 million deal, it was announced today.

    Joe Chillura, CEO of USAmeribank, shown inside a branch in Ybor City in this file photo.