Strawberry producers across the province seeing bumper crop.
There is a good reason why this year’s year’s strawberries are plump, juicy and bountiful.
According to officials with Horticulture Nova Scotia, the late start to the season, combined with a lot of moisture early on and followed by sunshine, has producers seeing bumper crops across the province.
Bev MacMullin of Southside Boularderie didn’t start picking strawberries until a few years ago.
“I made jam all my life, but I always bought the berries because I wasn’t keen to pick,” she said. “A few years back I decided to go to the u- pick and I never looked back, I love it.”
Surrounded by pickers of all ages, Bev and her grandsons, Gavin and Sam MacMullin, top off their buckets with luscious, red strawberries and head for the truck to get them weighted.
“I like spending time with everybody,” said her grandson, Gavin, 12.
His nine-year-old brother, Sam, is quick to add that he doesn’t mind picking berries, because he really like’s his grandma’s jam.
MacMullin plans to make eight double batches of jam, which translates into about 84 bottles.
“We go through a lot of jam, and I always pop a few in gifts,” she said. “In about 25 minutes we had three containers filled with strawberries. They are so big and beautiful, it doesn’t take any time to fill a bucket.”
Linda and Warren Gillis have worked at Rendell’s strawberry u-pick for about 15 years. Linda directs people to where they can pick. All the while, Warren is joking with the pickers, never missing a step as he weighs the berries and handles the money.
Parents and excited kids lined up to get their containers weighed so they could get started.
“The berries are just beautiful this year,” Gillis said. “I’ve never had a complaint in the field, so far no bugs and we are getting lots of people out . This is one of the better seasons I’ve seen, it’s amazing. People just can’t wait to pick.”
Linda’s husband is at the field at 7 a.m., and he doesn’t head for home until 7 p.m.
“This gives me something to do, and in all my years I never met a bad person, people are great,” he said. “You get to meet a lot of new pickers, and others that keep coming back year after year. This year there seems to be a lot more kids with their parents or grandparents. It’s never boring, that’s for sure.”
Strawberries are selling for around $1.25 a pound, and the price varies at the roadside, and in retail stores
Marlene Huntley, executive director of Horticulture Nova Scotia said everything seems to be growing bigger this year.
“In the (Annapolis) Valley, they’ve been picking for a couple of weeks now, and similar to Cape Breton, it’s a bumper crop of strawberries, they are huge and really tasty,” she said. “I’ve heard from the growers in Cape Breton, and the strawberry season is a little later, but they are having great results.”
Huntley said in some areas producers are scrambling to get the berries off the fields.
“Where we are, they are taking to the streets, filling their trucks to get rid of them. It’s because there are so many berries coming on so fast,” Huntley said. “The grocery chains can only take so much. The berries are big, they are ripe and plentiful.”
Producer Eddie Rendell is really pleased with the amount and quality of this year’s strawberry crop.
“I have about 27 acres of berries, and we are always looking for pickers. The u-pick is steady, it’s an all around good season so far.”
Conrad Niesten of Hank’s Farm Market in Millville sells strawberries at his market, to some retail stores, and sends a truck to Reserve Mines with flats of berries a few times a week.
“We have about five acres, and the berries are good this year,” Niesten said. “Along with strawberries, we have some vegetables at the market and will have more varieties as the season goes along. By early to mid- August we will be wideopen with lots of fresh produce available.”
Lorne Quinn, who operates Quinn’s Farm and u-pick in Millville, has about 12 acres of strawberries this season.
Quinn operates a u-pick and has a small market at the farm where he sells flats of berries.
Bev MacMullin, and her grandsons Gavin and Sam MacMullin of Southside Boularderie had no trouble filling their buckets at Rendell’s U-pick with
with plump, delicious strawberries.
Linda Gillis, left, waits to direct the next bunch of pickers. meanwhile, her husband, Warren Gillis, takes care of Lenore Jessome of Bras d’Or, a regular at Rendell’s strawberry u-pick in Point Aconi.
Strawberry producer Eddie Rendell checks on some plants in one of his u-pick fields.