Boun­ti­ful berries

Straw­berry pro­duc­ers across the province see­ing bumper crop.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIE COLLINS jcollins@cb­post.com

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.

JULIE COLLINS/CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTOS

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.

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