Polkdale Farm is conveniently located half-way between Orlando and Tampa, just off I-4 in Auburndale. We began growing blueberries 21 years ago on 2 acres. Today we grow 49 acres of USDA Certified Organic, Southern Highbush blueberries. Our fresh pick season is from late February until mid May every year. In 2020 we began freeze drying blueberries for our own use. They were such a big hit with family and friends we added more freeze drying capacity and are now offering them to the public. In 2021 we partnered with a local rancher who raises pure-bred Angus beef. They are grass fed and hormone free. We are now selling raw USDA inspected ground beef in freeze dried hamburger patties.
What are Southern Highbush Blueberries
Traditional blueberries (northern highbush) have been a crop grown in northern climates. This is because the common varieties need a large number of hours below 45 degrees to set a crop. 30 years ago researchers at the University of Florida set out on a quest to crossbreed blueberries and develop a plant that did not require so many hours below 45 degrees (chill hours). That breeding program has lead to the development of dozens of low chill, no chill varieties (southern highbush) that will grow in the warmest climates. Our plants begin to produce fruit in February when the northern highbush varieties are still dormant. We continue to produce fresh berries until mid May. Southern highbush varieties produce large, sweet fruit. The berries are juicy and full of the health benefits that make blueberries the best choice for a healthy lifestyle.
Why freeze dried ground beef?
In these uncertain times it pays to plan ahead. In the event of future meat shortages a supply of freeze dried meats will provide your family with a delicious source of protein. We have chosen to start with ground beef because of its versatility. The patties can be cooked as conventional hamburgers or crumbled up and used in other dishes. We only put 3 patties per package because once the mylar bag is open the meat must be consumed in a reasonable amount of time.
The finished products
Fresh blueberries weigh 7 times more than freeze dried blueberries by volume. That means 7 ounces of fresh blueberries only weigh 1 ounce after being freeze dried. The volume will change slightly as the freeze dried fruit tends to shrivel up slightly. To put it in perspective, eating 4 ounces of freeze dried blueberries is the equivalent of eating more than 1.5 pounds of fresh blueberries. Ground beef has much less water in it than blueberries. A pound of ground beef weighs 6 ounces once all the water is removed in the freeze drying process. Our freeze dried blueberries and our freeze dried ground beef are sealed in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. They require no refrigeration and have a shelf life beyond 10 years.
How does freeze drying work
The freeze drying process uses sublimation to remove all of the water. The product is frozen to a temperature of minus 40 degrees fahrenheit. The freeze dryer creates a strong vacuum and slowly brings the temperature up. The water inside the product begins to turn to water vapor (sublimation). The water vapor is pulled out of the chamber by the vacuum. The process takes 24-72 hours. Once the water is removed the product must be placed in mylar bags and sealed to prevent moisture from the air to be absorbed back into the product. We add a 300cc oxygen absorber to remove all of the oxygen from the bag. Here is a Youtube link to explain this process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNmuBbtWYrQ