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Tantramar blueberry growers expecting smaller crops this season

Richard Gogan of Amherst visits Trueman’s Blueberry Farm in Aulac last week to pick a few boxes of raspberries. Trueman’s raspberry and high-bush blueberry crops have fared well this summer, despite the hot temperatures in July. But their wild blueberry crops are down significantly, mainly as a result of the heavy spring frosts that hit the region in June.
Richard Gogan of Amherst visits Trueman’s Blueberry Farm in Aulac last week to pick a few boxes of raspberries. Trueman’s raspberry and high-bush blueberry crops have fared well this summer, despite the hot temperatures in July. But their wild blueberry crops are down significantly, mainly as a result of the heavy spring frosts that hit the region in June. - Katie Tower

Hot July helped make up for frosty spring

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Local blueberry growers may not be quite ready to thank Mother Nature for the sunny and warm temperatures she brought to the area in July – but they are certainly feeling a bit friendlier towards her than they did in June.

Berry farmers like Tom Trueman of Aulac and John Wilson of Sackville say they are expecting significantly smaller yields than usual after a frosty spring that caused severe damage to some of their crops.

Trueman, who harvests about 100 acres of wild blueberries each year, said he lost about 70 per cent of his crop this season as a result of the severe frosts that hit in May and June.

“That’s a lot of blueberries... and a lot less revenue coming in for us,” he said.

“I think it ranges from very little harm to total write-off.”

– John Wilson

Wilson, owner of Blueridge Blueberries in Sackville, says his crops are down as well, although the numbers vary from field to field; some fields were greatly affected, seeing anywhere from a 50- to 80-per-cent loss, while others didn’t bear the brunt as much, with only about 10- to 20-per-cent damage.

Wilson believes the same can be said all across the Maritimes as to the extent of loss felt by growers this year.

“I think it ranges from very little harm to total write-off.”

Both acknowledge the damage could have been worse, however, and are grateful they at least have some berries to pick this year.

“There were others that were hit substantially worse than us,” says Trueman, noting some Maritime growers have decided not to harvest at all this year because they don’t have enough berries on the stems to bother.

“Some just felt it wasn’t worthwhile,” notes Wilson.

They say they were glad to see July bring sunnier skies and warmer temperatures to the region, ensuring tcrops weren’t a total loss and keeping their season on a similar timeline as in previous years.

“That certainly helped pick up our pace a bit,” says Wilson. “If it had stayed cool, we would have been picking much later.”

He says the hot weather in July caused the berries to ripen fairly quickly, meaning the berries will be smaller than usual thanks to the lack of rainfall.

“We had a few showers to get us through but it’s still fairly dry,” says Trueman.

“We could have used a little bit more, that’s for sure,” adds Wilson.

Fortunately, there was enough groundwater from May and June to help this year’s crops survive, as compared to last year when the dry weather had much more of an impact, added Trueman.

With a decreased supply of berries across the Maritimes, Wilson says the good news is growers will likely be getting higher prices for their crops this years.

Trueman, owner and operator of Trueman’s Blueberry Farms in Aulac, says although his wild blueberry crops are down, his high-bush blueberries and his raspberry u-pick crops have fared well. He has an irrigation system for his raspberries so that offset the lack of rain this summer and his high-bush blueberries appreciated last week’s rainfall.

The heat and humidity, however, has had an impact on the number of people that have visited the u-pick this year but ne hopes that will pick up now that temperatures have dropped a bit. He will have blueberries until mid-September while the raspberry crops are available in both summer and fall varieties.

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