Ripe for the picking
Prince County farmer hopes to start picking strawberries early next week
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.
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.