Tom and Krista Trueman, owners and operators of Trueman Blueberry Farms on the Etter Ridge Road, were presented with Farm of the Year honours during the Chignecto Soil & Crop Improvement Associations’ AGM and awards night held recently in Sackville. Shown here, left to right: Kent Curtis of Cavendish Agriculture Services in Salisbury, sponsors of the annual award, with the Truemans. (Photo submitted).
The Chignecto Soil & Crop Improvement Association (CSCIA) has named a local blueberry and honey bee operation as Farm of the Year for 2013.
Located on the Etter Ridge Road, Trueman Blueberry Farms is owned and operated by Tom and Krista Trueman. The Trueman’s were presented with the annual award at the AGM and awards ceremony held recently in Sackville.
Part of a provincial organization, the Chignecto Soil & Crop Improvement Association is comprised of many area farmers and agricultural producers concerned with maintaining good farm practices and keeping abreast of new programs and government instituted policies. Through meetings, workshops and regular newsletters it provides its members with information on up-to-date equipment, innovative farm practices and improvements in the many, diverse aspects of agricultural production today.
An eighth generation farmer, Tom Trueman’s ancestor William Trueman was a Yorkshire settler to the region in the 1770s. Tom said last week that he and his family were pleased to receive the Farm of the Year award.
“It’s an honour. The Soil & Crop Association is a good organization - I’ve been a member for a lot of years. My dad (George Trueman) has also been involved with the association for many years so I just naturally joined as well,” he said.
Trueman noted that the Soil & Crop Association provides a lot of services to its members.
“It’s an information exchange, acts as a conduit to the province; it leverages government programs, does some local work such as GPS mapping of fields and even has some pieces of equipment that members can rent. It’s a good networking organization,” he added.
Tom and Krista Trueman have been involved in the production of wild blueberries and honey bees for about 14 years.
“We run approximately 1500 colonies which we use primarily for pollination services, both to pollinate our own blueberries and we also run a rental business where we custom-pollinate crops around the province. We go as far north as Tracadie and as far west as Pennfield; pretty much follow the blueberry crops,” he explained, adding that the bees also pollinate cranberry and canola crops around New Brunswick.
He said the family first decided to have their own honey bees when it became increasingly hard to access bees for pollination of their own 250-acre blueberry operation. The farm also includes another 200 acres of blueberries that are at various stages of development.
“The honey bee portion of our business just grew naturally so now it’s an important part of what we do,” he said.
He noted that about 90 per cent of the blueberries they produce are sold to Oxford Frozen Food where they are shipped to worldwide markets.
“We also do some fresh food sales, we have a packing line on our farm so we pick, package and sell them in the summer at the gate as well as to local stores,” he said.
The colonies of honey bees also produce from about 30,000 – 50,000 pounds of raw, unpasteurized honey each year which is processed at their own Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspected honey facility and sold both on-site and in local retail outlets.
Trueman explained that although they do produce a lot of honey each year, it’s not the amount that would be produced by bees used solely for honey production.
“It’s not really so much, relative to the number of colonies we have. With bees, you tend to either get a honey crop or you do pollination. You don’t tend to do both. If we were solely a honey producer we would expect to get probably 10 times the amount that we actually do get. We let the bees utilize that…we generally stock from six to 10 hives per acre; if you were going to produce honey crops you’d want about one hive per 20 acres. Bees are much like cattle; they have to have a certain amount of pasture to gather their forage from, so if you put a lot of them in a small area they’ll take that food source and spread it out over all those bees. The food source doesn’t get bigger, it just gets more spread about,” he explained.
The business has two permanent employees and from eight – 10 others who work seasonally in the production of blueberries and honey bees. Tom also farms cooperatively with his father George and sister Kathy, growing an additional 100 acres of blueberries as well as 500 acres of canola, oats and forage. He also manages Ridgeway Forage and Grain Limited
which supplies custom farming services as well as selling forage and other agricultural commodities.
Trueman graduated from the New Brunswick agricultural leadership program and over the years has been active with producer organizations, serving on the Canadian Honey council and the New Brunswick Beekeepers Association. He has championed the cooperative movement, serving on the board of directors of the Amherst Co-op, as well as nine years on the board of Co-op Atlantic.
Looking to the future, he plans to develop another
another 200 acres of wild blueberries and expand his honeybee operation.
“We also have about an acre plantation of cultivated high-bush blueberries which we plan to open as a ‘you-pick’ this summer. This will be our first summer for them; we planted them three years ago and it takes from three to five years for them to mature. It’s something different for us, something I just like to play with I guess,” he said.
He also noted that the family is considering opening a retail store to showcase the products they produce at Trueman Blueberry Farms.
Following are the winners of the annual local forage competition, sponsored by the Chignecto Soil & Crop Improvement Association. The winners were also announced at the annual AGM held in Sackville recently.
Grass silage, chopped: R.A. Farm
Grass silage, round bale: Reymar Farm
Grass hay, round bale: Harold Oulton
Grass hay, square bale: Harold Oulton
Cereal silage: Roga Farm Ltd.
Corn silage: R.A. Farm
Legume silage, round bale: Reymar Farm