Strawberry season has arrived

Eric McCarthy
Published on July 4, 2014

Clifford Bernard loads up with fresh berries Friday, the first day Rennie’s U-Pick was open this season. The farm opened the gates three days earlier than planned just to get ahead of Hurricane Arthur.

Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer

ALMA -- It’s still early in the season but there will be local berries on the table this weekend.
Rennie’s U-Pick opened its gates to pickers Friday morning and Compton’s Very Berry Patch had workers in a field in Kensington picking berries to supply local stores.

Alan Rennie said he wasn’t planning on opening his U-Pick until Monday, but, with Hurricane Arthur on collision course and heavy rain in the forecast, he decided Thursday night to move the opening up.

As it is, Friday’s opening is about four days behind normal.

Picking activity, however, was uncharacteristically light which Rennie attributes to the short notice. He was satisfied, though, that berries that might otherwise get washed away by Arthur were getting picked ahead of the storm.

Clifford Bernard from Tignish, appreciated the opportunity. Crouched in the berry patch in front of a nearly full bowl, he said the early berries are the pick of the crop. He noted there were still lots of unripe berries on the plants for future trips to the berry fields.

In Nail Pond, Barry Clohossey, operator of Clohossey Farms U-Pick, said the late spring has pushed him back. “Things are slow,” he said; everything, pretty much across the board, is about two weeks behind.” He anticipates having berries ready for U-Pick by July 12 or 14.

The berry farmers agreed the heat this week has helped hasten the ripening stage after a cool, wet spring had set everything behind.

Ian Compton from Compton’s Very Berry Patch in Summerside, said crews were picking up berries Friday from very early varieties in Kensington to fill store orders. He anticipates it will still be a few days before there are enough surplus berries to open up for U-Pick.

“There’s a big crop there; it just needed to come in,” Compton said of the benefits of this week’s heat wave.

Rennie said his U-Pick will reopen once Arthur moves out and he anticipates the supply of just-ripened berries will keep it in operation most days going forward. He has seven varieties in his fields to help spread out the ripening season.