Cold, wet weather cre­ates havoc for cran­berry pro­duc­ers

Dorchester’s Coastal Cran­ber­ries fi­nally fin­ishes fall har­vest

Sackville Tribune - - TANTRAMAR - BY JOAN LEBLANC SPE­CIAL TO THE TRI­BUNE- POST

The hot, dry sum­mer this year that helped boost cran­berry yields in South­east­ern New Bruns­wick gave way to a cold, wet fall, cre­at­ing chal­lenges to get them all har­vested.

Mel Good­land, with his wife, Ge­orgina, and son, Matthew, owns and op­er­ates Coastal Cran­ber­ries in Dorchester. They just fin­ished har­vest­ing their crop ear­lier this month.

“We had two re­ally good days last week and that al­lowed us to get a lot out of the field, but the weather’s been crazy… we were al­most a month be­hind other years in get­ting it all done,” Good­land said.

He noted ex­treme cold tem­per­a­tures make it pre­car­i­ous to get har­vest­ing equip­ment into the fields.

“We had to wait un­til the tem­per­a­ture got up above zero so when we get out with the ma­chines, it doesn’t snap the vines, be­cause when they’ve been frozen, they’re brit­tle,” he said.

The only cran­berry grow­ers in the south­east­ern cor­ner of New Bruns­wick, the Good­lands are just one of about 20 grow­ing op­er­a­tions across the prov­ince and have been har­vest­ing cran­ber­ries since 2005. For the first three years Good­land wethar­vested his cran­ber­ries but then changed to the more labour­in­tense dry har­vest, us­ing sev­eral walk-be­hind ma­chines.

“We found that the dry, fresh fruit had more value than the wet fruit,” he said. He went on to ex­plain wet fruit is sold to pro­ces­sors for use in juices, sauces and other pre­pared foods, while the dry fruit is ei­ther dried, or sold fresh off the vine.

At times through­out the year Good­land also em­ploys sev­eral lo­cal peo­ple who help har­vest and pre­pare the berries for pack­ag­ing. For the past few years their berries have been sold as fresh fruit un­der the Sun Val­ley Foods brand, lo­cated in Ayles­ford, N.S. The Good­lands also sell their fresh and “sweet and dried” cran­ber­ries at lo­cal farm­ers’ mar­kets un­der their own Coastal Cran­ber­ries brand.

“They’re re­ally pop­u­lar; we sell them at the farm­ers’ mar­kets in Amherst and Monc­ton and some­one takes them to the Sackville farm­ers’ mar­ket for us ev­ery Satur­day,” he noted.

And while many food grow­ers took a big hit ear­lier this year when wide­spread heavy frost killed large tracts of early-grow­ing plants, Coastal Cran­ber­ries was able to avoid that catas­tro­phe. In ad­di­tion to an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem, a few years ago a crop mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem was in­stalled, both of which have proven valu­able.

“These sys­tems have saved us a lot of work and heartache, that’s for sure. When the tem­per­a­ture goes down, the elec­tronic mon­i­tors call us and the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem will kick in to spray the vines with wa­ter, pro­tect­ing them from frost dam­age. It sure beats hav­ing to check the beds in the mid­dle of the night,” Good­land said.

He noted that de­spite the cold weather of late, his crops have ex­pe­ri­enced lit­tle to no dam­age. Buy­ers pre­fer the berries stay in the field as long as pos­si­ble, he ex­plained, to pro­vide fresh berries for the Christ­mas sea­son as well as the Amer­i­can Thanks­giv­ing.

“The weather this year has been ridicu­lous. No­body in the in­dus­try has ever seen such ter­ri­ble con­di­tions. The cran­ber­ries are so red right now that they’re al­most pur­ple, although they’re still fresh and good. But the in­ter­mit­tent rains and cold weather have just made the har­vest so long and drawn out. We’re glad it’s done,” he said.

So while the lack of rain dur­ing the sum­mer months may have helped pro­duce a good crop yield this year, the fre­quent rains and cold weather over the past months or so def­i­nitely played havoc with the har­vest.

Good­land said he en­joys grow­ing his cran­ber­ries, but ad­mit­ted the big­gest chal­lenge for all cran­berry grow­ers over the past decade has been the fluc­tu­at­ing price in the mar­ket­place.

“The price went way down to be­low cost of pro­duc­tion for sev­eral years… and as a re­sult we have lost some cran­berry farms. They claim there’s been an over­sup­ply, but there wasn’t. The over-sup­ply was ac­tu­ally in the juice con­cen­trate and there was not enough whole berries to make the sweet and dried berries and sauces,” he said.

But with the win­ter snows just around the cor­ner, Good­land said he’s pleased to see this year’s har­vest come to a suc­cess­ful end.

“For a while there, we didn’t think we’d ever get the cran­ber­ries out of the field. We’re very glad it’s fi­nally done.”

JOAN LEBLANC – SPE­CIAL TO THE TRI­BUNE POST

Mel Good­land, owner and op­er­a­tor of the Coastal Cran­ber­ries in Dorchester, says the fre­quent rains and cold weather have played havoc with his har­vest.

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