This year’s strawberry harvest is looking up after rainy weather in recent days offered some respite from a stretch of hot, dry weather.
For Arny Nabuurs of Nabuurs Gardens on the MacDonald Highway in Brudenell, there is one major hurdle left before harvest begins next week.
“Getting pickers is always a challenge, this year even more so as a result of the COVID restrictions,” Mr Nabuurs said.
In a typical season 30-35 would pick berries on the Nabuurs’ farm from 7 am until midday.
Mr Nabuurs is hopeful to see the same numbers for the 2020 harvest.
The growing season started with a number of frost warnings. An irrigation system was used to keep a steady flow of water to 80 nozzles dotting the 12 acres of berry fields and many overnight hours were spent monitoring the fields on those cold nights.
Mr Nabuurs will harvest nine acres in July provided the weather holds. His berries are sold across the Island.
“We’re basically playing a waiting game. We’re within a week of doing some picking,” Mr Nabuurs said. The first berries were starting to turn colour in the last week.
He feels confident there will be a strong market for the sweet red fruit this year.
“I’m optimistic there is adequate room for the product,” he said.
While he is able to cope with the frost he has seen weather conditions change dramatically over the years.
“Global warming predictions were that low temperatures would get a little lower and the high temperatures would get higher, storms get a little bit more intense and that’s exactly what’s happening,” Mr Nabuurs said.
For Becky Townshend, late frost has impacted the wild blueberry crops at Townshend Potato Company in Rollo Bay. However, the recent stretch of hot weather has been just what the berries need for growth.
Ms Townshend estimates harvest will take place around the end of August.
“It will depend on when Braggs is going to open their receiving shed,” Ms Townshend said.
Braggs refers to Oxford Frozen Foods, based in Nova Scotia.
Last year more than 9,800 tons of fresh blueberries were produced in PEI with a farm gate value of $9,188,000. There were also 92 tonnes of fresh strawberries produced with a farm gate value of $415,000, according to Statistics Canada.
There were 13,162 acres in blueberry production on the Island and 91 acres in strawberry production in 2019.