Everything about Southern Hill Farms makes you feel like you’re far away from Central Florida’s main attractions.
It’s nestled between Winter Garden and Clermont on a back dirt road; however, it’s only three miles off Highway 27 and 18 minutes from the Magic Kingdom.
“What people love about this area is the fact that you can sit up here and see the countryside,” said Southern Hill Farms owner David Hill, from a table on a rooftop patio overlooking the farm’s blueberry fields.
This 140-acre farm operates seasonally from September through May and offers various u-pick crops throughout the season.
Hill began his farming career by managing his father-in-law’s farm on Lake Apopka’s shores in the mid-1980s. When the state reclaimed the farms around the lake in the late 1990s, the family moved operations to land off Schofield Road in Lake County, the farm’s current location.
In the early years, the farm was mainly a landscape tree farm. In 2011, Hill dedicated 40 acres of the property for commercial blueberry growing. That’s when the entire family got involved.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the family decided to open up the farm to visitors for their first u-pick blueberry season.
As the years passed, the community buzzed and the farm continued to grow, converting more acreage to u-pick crops every season. Now, the farm offers blueberries, peaches, strawberries, sunflowers, and zinnias.
As a working farm, the u-pick produce available at any given time depends on the weather and the season. Typically, strawberries are available from December until early to mid-March. Blueberries are ripe from mid- to late March through May. Five acres of peaches can be plucked in April and May, while sunflowers and zinnias are available on a rotating basis throughout the season.
Southern Hill Farms is much more than u-pick produce fields. The farm hosts live music and an interactive kid zone on the weekends — complete with bounce houses, slides and other attractions. A large covered pavilion at the center of the property offers picnic tables, a market and food trucks. Located under the main barn are the Southern Hill Farms’ bakery and eatery, which serves treats like blueberry lemonade and strawberry donuts out of a vintage airstream.
The farm hosts several events throughout the year, like a beer and wine event in May and their fall festival, which runs from late September through early November.
There are also private rental facilities for birthday parties and weddings.
Southern Hill Farms has thought of everything to create an inviting, family-friendly atmosphere — from a covered wooden playground for young children to well-maintained restrooms. There are also plenty of opportunities to snap selfies and Instagram-worthy family photos throughout the property.
Helpful staff members direct you through the process from parking to checking out. You’ll either receive a bucket or a box to collect your fresh finds, depending on what you’re picking. Be mindful that the containers hold several pounds of produce at a time, and final pricing is based on per-pound weight. Flowers are priced per stem.
Brooke Hill, David’s daughter-in-law, and farm staff member shares this insider tip: head toward the center of each field and row for your best chance to find the most fruit.
Prepare for a decent walk on soft dirt, sand and grass walkways, especially if you’re bringing a stroller. Leave the high heels and dress clothes at home (unless you’re attending a wedding), and wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes.
Masks are currently required while indoors and at the covered pavilions. With plenty of space to spread out, visiting the farm is a perfect way to enjoy some socially distant family fun.
Southern Hill Farms is located at 16651 Schofield Road in Clermont.
Access to the farm is available from Highway 27 or toll-road 429 along Schofield Road. Be prepared to travel two to three miles along this dirt road to access the farm.
For more information, visit their website, www.southernhillfarms.com.