Ripe for the pick­ing

Prince County farmer hopes to start pick­ing straw­ber­ries early next week

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - NEWS - BY NANCY MACPHEE TC MEDIA

Matt Comp­ton doesn’t need urg­ing to sink his teeth into the juicy, bright red berry.

He knows the fruits of his labour taste sweet.

Comp­ton’s acreage of straw­berry plants on the out­skirts of Summerside spreads as far as the eye can see. There’s more on Route 2 — 18 acres to­tal of the sweet berries.

On those plants, nes­tled in straw, berries are ripen­ing, al­most ready to be picked.

“The crop looks good, op­ti­misti­cally good,” he said af­ter check­ing his fields. “The plants set heavy. As long as we get some favourable weather to go with it, cool nights, warm days, we’ll be all set.”

The ex­treme win­ter and heavy snow that blan­keted the province played in Comp­ton’s favour, in­su­lat­ing his straw­berry plants.

“We had some early win­ter kill from about Novem­ber to De­cem­ber when we had no snow,” he ex­plained. “But we sur­vived the win­ter pretty good.”

Comp­ton had hoped Is­lan­ders and visi­tors would be en­joy­ing his berries while cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s birth­day. But that wasn’t to be.

“Com­pared to last year, we are about the same, maybe even a cou­ple of days ear­lier,” he added. “There is lots of green fruit there. We are start­ing to see some berries ap­pear. Next week we think we will be start­ing to pick, pos­si­bly Mon­day.”

The hope is to have both Up­ick lo­ca­tions open a week later, if the weather co-op­er­ates. Sev­eral days of warm, sunny weather is needed.

“When we see our fields start to bulk up and our pick­ers can’t pick them all that day... that’s when we will start to U-pick.”

By then, he’ll have another Is­land favourite — new pota­toes — ready to eat.

The straw­berry sea­son on P.E.I. is rel­a­tively short, about three to four weeks. Comp­ton is test­ing out a new va­ri­ety, ever berries, one that’s be­ing grown on only an acre and will be avail­able later in the year, right un­til first frost.

He doesn’t know how many pounds of berries his op­er­a­tion yields each year, likely “tens of thou­sands of pounds.” Prices are on par with last year, at $4 a box.

“They are a re­ward­ing crop. When they are in the field and there are no weeds in the field, they are a beau­ti­ful crop to grow,” said Comp­ton, who has been grow­ing straw­ber­ries for 10 years.

NANCY MACPHEE/TC MEDIA

Matt Comp­ton, who, along with his fam­ily, owns and op­er­ates Comp­ton’s Very Berry Patch, shows off some of the straw­ber­ries from his field off the Dekker Road on the out­skirts of Summerside. He hopes to have pick­ers in the field Mon­day.

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