PEMBROKE, ONT. -- Many Ontario families are in a bind, looking to travel and get away during the summer, but are remaining cautious due to COVID-19. That’s where places like Hugli’s Blueberry Ranch in Pembroke are filling the void.

“It’s been absolutely fabulous,” says owner Brian Hugli. “The crop is amazing and that certainly brings people out.”

Hugli says his pick-your-own blueberry farm has seen visitors come out in droves on weekends, with people looking for a safe way to spend their time during the pandemic.

“The rows are 10 or 12 feet apart and five feet between the bushes. So, there’s natural spacing out in the open air. People were really anxious to get out and do something outside, and this just lends itself to spacing so naturally,” says Hugli.

Naama Altmin and her family were at Hugli’s Blueberry Farm Tuesday afternoon, visiting the Pembroke area from Toronto on a family vacation, and picking blueberries for the first time.

“We were looking to be outdoors, get out of the screens, just be outside a little bit, and while also keeping our social distance,” says Altmin. “So this gave us a very good option.”

Altmin, visiting with her husband and three children, says they purposely chose to visit Hugli’s as a safe day trip. “We looked for a place where, I don’t want to say to avoid other people, but we’re not taking an elevator with other people or having a dining room together.”

It is a good year for first time visitors to Hugli’s too. The owner says without weddings and school trips to the ranch during the spring, his team was able to dedicate more time to nurturing the blueberries, making them more bountiful, plumper, and tastier.

“The berries have been nice sized, really big, and we’ve got varieties we haven’t even touched yet. We’ll be picking for another three or four weeks anyway,” says Hugli. “It’s a great family outing and family fun is what we say we grow here.”