Article by Marty Proctor
The South Lake Tablet recently spoke with Dustin Lowe, the owner of Lake Catherine Blueberries and Tim Maslow, Community Development Director, City of Groveland, about the future of Lake Catherine Blueberries and the City of Groveland.
Dustin Lowe, his wife, and parents own Lake Catherine Blueberries. Dustin represents the fourth generation to work the farm. His son and daughter are the fifth generation. Dustin started our conversation, saying, “with Groveland’s vision right now, we thought it was the perfect time to annex into the City after 99 years of being neighbors and friends. We just feel like it gives us the opportunity to continue growing our crops and host events for the local community and develop just portions of the properties so it will be self-sustaining.” Tim Maslow continued, “They followed along with our land use and code update. They absolutely love the agrarian focus paying homage to the agrarian roots of the city.”
The “Village” category of the City’s current land use plan was selected for what is termed Phase One of the Plans. This initial development will be highly visible along SR 19. The Village concept requires a preservation of 30+% open space. Maslow clarified, “the village is intended to be very agrarian, preserving a lot of the farmland and making the land open spaces. It’s a family-oriented development.”
The City’s new vision of agrarian urbanism has inspired the property owners, and empowering them to come up with a farmland based agri-tourism plan for the whole property. Tim added, “they’re really the first ones to do that. They looked at both the village and hamlet categories. We felt like the village density made sense as it was close to downtown.” The intention is to finish phase one prior to the completion of the SR 50 realignment and South Lake Trail segments in downtown Groveland.
The Farm’s plans are preliminary and purely conceptual at this time. Concepts include a farm-to-table restaurant, office space, and upstairs residential. There are also discussions of a distillery and brewery the will likely highlight hops grown on the farm alongside other more typical food crops. “Thirty percent of the space will be kept in agriculture to provide produce (fruit, vegetables, that sort of thing) to the local community,” Dustin elaborated, “We are not considering transitioning away from blueberries. We intend to incorporate blueberries with a wider variety of produce for the local community.”
Lowe continued highlighting the partnership and cooperative farm-oriented, open space agrotourism concept. “The Groveland residents are very fortunate right now to have some great leadership in place…Mayor Wilson, the City Council, and City Manager Michael Hein and the entire team. They have this vision of agrarian urbanism which is very intriguing to our family. Hopefully, the cookie-cutter tract home development is a thing of the past.”
The history of the farm and the city are intermingled over the last 99 years. The farm property was purchased by Dustin’s great-grandfather in 1922. The following month, the City of Groveland was incorporated. The farm was started as a pork and egg farm along with row crops. The family and farm slowly transitioned to citrus, and then to blueberries, strawberries, and other row crops. Slowly, over the past 12 years, the Lowe’s have incorporated a lot of agritourism aspects as well as hosting events for the local community.
Dustin described the farm’s annual and future schedule: “Our bread and butter is in the spring during our blueberry harvest. After harvest, we take a little bit of time off to prepare for our July 4 festivities. Planning then shifts to Halloween and after that we prepare for our Christmas festivities. We do New Year’s Eve as well! Normally we have a weekend event in February but canceled the February event this year. That’s kind of our calendar, so to speak.”
The city of Groveland will be celebrating its 99th Founders Day events March 11-13. The farm will be participating as a partner and vendor in the City celebration. This year, the farm will also be celebrating its 99th year and bigger Centennial celebrations will follow in 2022.
Details of the farm’s participation in Founders Day and the Lake Catherine Blueberries celebration are still in the works.
Lake Catherine Blueberries is located at 5849 Lake Catherine Rd., Groveland. TO LEARN MORE, Visit website LAKE CATHERINE BLUEBERRIES