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Western P.E.I. blueberry grower amazed by bountiful crop

John Gavin has a dish of plump blueberries just picked from his field in Norway. He is amazed with this year’s yield especially in light of problems some growers have had with germination, frost and lack of moisture.
John Gavin has a dish of plump blueberries just picked from his field in Norway. He is amazed with this year’s yield especially in light of problems some growers have had with germination, frost and lack of moisture. - Eric McCarthy

NORWAY, P.E.I. – By all accounts, this should have been a poor year for blueberry production, admits Norway grower John Gavin. Instead, Gavin, who grows about 10 acres of the fruit per year, describes his field as “just a blue haze.”

He’s been growing berries on land previously owned by his father since 1971.

“This is the first time I’ve seen it like this,” he said, estimating his yield could hit 14 to 15 tonnes this year, besting his previous high by about four tonnes.

Having taken a loss on his crop last year due to low prices, he is hoping for a higher return this year.

With so many growers raising concerns about frost damage and problems getting bees for pollination, the way the crop came on took him by surprise.

There were so many other things that could have affected yield this year, like a winter that did not provide a good enough snow cover to protect the fragile plants, and arid conditions throughout the growing season.

“Just a blue haze,” is how John Gavin describes his Norway blueberry crop, the likes of which he’s never seen before.
“Just a blue haze,” is how John Gavin describes his Norway blueberry crop, the likes of which he’s never seen before.

Gavin said he relied only on local bees this year and was thrilled by the amount of large bumblebees, numbering in the thousands, that arrived to pollinate his crop.

“I’d see 50 on that side (of the path) and 50 on this side. I’d come up here and there’d be 100,” he described the counts.

The late spring frost that hampered many fields, left his alone. He thinks the tall trees that surround his berry field and close proximity to salt water might have kept the frost at bay. But he is at a loss to explain how the crop came on so strong with hardly any rainfall.

“That’s the biggest part.”

Gavin has flags and pie plates suspended throughout his field and credits them with keeping the gulls and crows away from his berries.

Although the number of u-pickers was down this year, Gavin said those who did pick “never saw the likes of it. They’d fill their dish in no time.”

Gavin is now awaiting the arrival of the custom harvesters to pick up the bulk of his crop.

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