Wedding Bells and Blueberries: Agritourism’s Perfect Pair

Indigo Harvest’s story starts in 1975 when Donna Miller’s parents, Don and Janice Goldberg, purchased 17 acres in Inverness, Florida as a family getaway. A beautiful home built the next year, an acre and a half family garden and surrounded by the Florida forests, the family would spend time at the getaway during the summers and the winter. Never did Donna Miller, D&J Farms and Indigo Harvest owner think that four decades later the family vacation spot would be home to an organic blueberry farm and wedding venue.

“My dad taught my nephews, his grandsons, how to hunt here,” Donna said. “There have been a lot of memories made here.”

In 1992, the family bought the property next door and built a barn to store equipment. This barn would later be converted to D&J Farms packing facility and then even later, the Indigo Harvest Events wedding venue.

 “I had my daughter in 1996 and wanted to do something different than the corporate, hospital setting,” Donna said. “When she was just born I took her to a farm around to pick blueberries. After talking with the worker at the gate, she insisted that I join the owners of the farm for tea instead of taking a newborn out into the field. I sat on the porch with the owners and before I knew it, they were trying to sell me their farm! I was in no position to own a farm. I didn’t know anything about farming blueberries, but they were not going to take no for an answer.”

“I think God planted the seed of desire to own a blueberry farm because otherwise I wouldn’t even conceive of it,” Donna said.

But once the wheels were turning, Donna chased down the dream.

 “I went to the extension office and spoke to a wonderful man named Andy Rose. He gave me a lot of encouragement and said there were not many blueberries grown in Florida commercially. He put me in touch with another farm where I learned a lot about the growing needs of the plant.”

Donna then volunteered at the farm in exchange for the farm owner to teach her best management practices on the weekends.

“My dad was very hesitant. I had my master’s degree in health care administration and my RN,” she said. “He kept telling me I could never make what I would in that field.”

But one Mother’s day, Donna’s father planted 17 blueberry plants as a gift to her.

“He told me these were all the blueberry plants I could ever eat. I replied with, ‘This is great but not what I was meant to do.’ I really wanted a farm and I could not make it go away. So I purchased my first 300 blueberry plants and my mom and dad went with me to pick them up,” she said.

“While we were loading the plants into the trailer, my parents looked at me with this really funny smile and my dad said, ‘You’re gonna do this,’ and I said, ‘Yeah dad I am.’ Then he asked, ‘Do you want some partners?’ And they became my partners,” she said.

Hence the name, D&J Farms. D&J stands for Donna, her parents Donald Janice and Donna’s daughter Jacqueline.

Those first 300 plants were planted right there in the yard. Later on, Donna purchased the property to the west and continued to expand the operation as neighboring properties became available.

What started as two acres is now a 40 acre operation with 22 acres of organic blueberries on the home site, D&J Farms leases eight acres around the corner and has 10 additional acres in Floral City.

Three years ago, the blueberry plants had reached their peak and the farm began to replace the bushes. Donna started researching about organic practices, water quality and soil health. She did not know much at first so she continued her research, took classes, and decided she wanted to convert the rest of the farm to organic in 2009.

Over the course of three years, D&J migrated from a conventional to organic farm. Donna recounts some of the trials and tribulations of the conversion.

“Converting the plants was like taking someone on a meat and potatoes diet and only feeding them soup and salad,” she said. “We anticipated somewhat reduced production, but it was a lot harder than we thought.”

D&J Farms has worked with the University of Florida to develop several varieties they have exclusive rights to and still produce today on their exclusively organic farm. Varieties including Jacque, Martin and Diana and Don, all named after family and friends of the farm.

While the blueberry farm is the primary business, in the summer of 2016 the family barn began its transformation into a wedding venue.

The wedding venue adventure began with Donna’s nephew insisting that he be married under the large oak on the property.

“When I asked him why he was so determined, he pointed to the oak tree over there,” Donna said. “He said, ‘My mom used to swing me in that tire swing and I want to be married here because this is where she is.’”

And thus began Indigo Harvest Events. The family cleaned out and painted the barn, added drapery, updated the flooring and added a beautiful chandelier. Her nephew’s wedding was the first on the property on March 4, 2017.

Donna did not plan on booking any events that season because it was harvest, but later attended a bridal show and has been booking weddings and corporate events since.

 “People are blown away when they come out and see old Florida,” Donna said. “They walk right around the back of the property where they can see the Withlacoochee River and enjoy just being on the farm. People really love it.”

Growing sweet, Florida blueberries is now a tradition for Donna Miller’s family, and adding a wedding venue to their already gorgeous farm is an excellent way to continue that agricultural tradition for years to come.

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