Lo­cal pick­ers ‘com­ing in droves’

No short­age of high­bush blue­ber­ries, pick­ers at Blue­berry Acres in Sh­effield Mills

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY IAN FAIRCLOUGH THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

Bob Kid­ston of Blue­berry Acres says he doesn’t know where the blue­berry pick­ers have come from again this year, but he’s glad they showed up.

His fam­ily’s high­bush blue­berry op­er­a­tion used to av­er­age 300 com­mer­cial pick­ers per year, but for the sec­ond straight year, 600 peo­ple have come to pick berries at the Kings County op­er­a­tion. And that has been a good thing. “The heat has really es­ca­lated the ripen­ing, so all the va­ri­eties are com­ing on at once,” Kid­ston said. “Some of them are three or four weeks ear­lier than the norm. We’re try­ing to keep up, that’s what we’re do­ing.”

Kid­ston said the support of lo­cal pick­ers has been very for­tu­nate.

“They’ve been com­ing in droves, it’s been amaz­ing, really.”

Warm nights mean the berries have kept ripen­ing, in­stead of slow­ing down af­ter dark.

And the heat of this sum­mer has been caus­ing other is­sues, too, Kid­ston said.

“Fruit go­ing into the plant has to be pre-cooled to get the field heat out, and it takes longer. Usu­ally a 65 or 70-de­gree (Faren­heit) berry will take two hours to get down to 55 de­grees, but when you take them in at 85 or 90 de­grees it’s an­other hour and it taxes the cool­ing sys­tems.”

Work­ers have been pick­ing be­tween 40,000 and 50,000 pounds of berries a day, Kid­ston said.

He said he ex­pects an­other good crop this year, with lots of de­mand. The fields weren’t badly af­fected by the June frosts.

U-pick op­er­a­tions are down 25 per cent this year, Kid­ston said, pri­mar­ily be­cause of the heat.

It’s been too hot, a lot of peo­ple just don’t want to go out in the field,” he said. “They get out of the car and the heat sets them right back.”

U-pick only ac­counts for 10 per cent of the op­er­a­tion.

Blue­berry Acres, which is owned by Agri-Nova, has about 80 hectares of high­bush berries. Per­fect Berries in Ayles­ford has about the same, and other grow- ers in the prov­ince have about 40 hectares com­bined.

Nova Sco­tia is the only area in North and South Amer­ica where berries are be­ing har­vested in Au­gust, mean­ing there’s plenty of de­mand.

IAN FAIRCLOUGH

Bob Kid­ston of Blue­berry Acres says it should be an­other bumper year at the high­bush berry op­er­a­tion in Sh­effield Mills, Kings County.

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