High­bush blue­ber­ries are ready early


Bob Kid­ston isn’t en­tirely sure why some of his fam­ily’s high­bush blue­berry crop is ripe a month ahead of sched­ule. But luck­ily, an­other mys­tery is deal­ing with that: a dou­bling of the num­ber of com­mer­cial pick­ers show­ing up at Blue­berry Acres in Sh­effield Mills.

Kid­ston said that while the op­er­a­tion nor­mally sees 300 peo­ple per day for com­mer­cial pick­ing, this year has seen closer to 600 peo­ple a day. And that in­creases how much of the crop can be har­vested.

“Three years ago our best day would have been 35,000 pounds, and last year our best was 50,000,” Kid­ston said. “Right now we’re av­er­ag­ing 50,000 to 60,000 pounds a day, and last Satur­day we picked 90,000.”

He said if the ex­tra pick­ers hadn’t ar­rived, “we would have been in trou­ble.”

This week and next are the peak of the har­vest. U-pick op­er­a­tions ac­count for about 10 per cent of the crop, while the rest is picked com­mer­cially.

He said the mild win­ter might have helped with the big­ger crop, but “we can’t quite fig­ure it out.

“It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent sce­nario. With the re­ally cold, cold spring we were wor­ried we were not go­ing to get any pol­li­na­tion . . . but we had to have had be­cause of the crop that we got.”

He said low-bush berries here are tak­ing a hit be­cause three years of bumper crops with­out a match­ing in­crease in de­mand has dropped prices for frozen berries from 65 cents a pound to an es­ti­mated 20 cents this year. But de­mand for fresh high­bush berries in the U.S. mar­ket re­mains strong.

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

Kid­ston said Ar­gentina’s crop won’t be ready for har­vest­ing for an­other two weeks, and won’t hit the mar­ket in Canada un­til early Oc­to­ber.

“It doesn’t af­fect us un­til the fi­nal week of pick­ing be­cause the price will drop with an­other sup­ply com­ing on,” he said. “All the buy­ers use that to their ad­van­tage.”

Plus, crop trou­bles in the U.S. may pro­vide a mar­ket for his farm’s berries that don’t make the grade for fresh berries to be used for juice.

Ge­or­gia lost 90 mil­lion pounds this spring be­cause of frost, the west coast had poor pol­li­na­tion, and the crop in Maine is low, Kid­ston said.

He said that may even help pro­vide a mar­ket for Nova Sco­tia low-bush op­er­a­tions.


Hav­ing the high­bush blue­ber­ries ripen ear­lier this year means pro­duc­ers can have them to mar­ket well be­fore their com­peti­tors, in coun­tries like Ar­gentina.

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