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Nova Scotia strawberry farmers say they’re having one of the worst seasons in memory

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Nova Scotia strawberry farmers say they’re having one of the worst seasons in memory
WATCH: A harsh frost and frigid temperatures has wreaked havoc on this year’s strawberry harvest. As Natasha Pace reports, strawberry farmers say they’re having one of the worst seasons in memory – Jul 3, 2018

Peter Elderkin has been a farmer for decades but says this is one of the worst strawberry seasons he has even seen.

“Our strawberries were probably hurt more than anything else. We’ve had a lot of damage on our strawberries,” Elderkin said.

“The strawberries with us, it appears we’ve lost our first three or four or even five pickings of berries and so, we’re sort of starting late season almost. The later, smaller berries are what’s ripening now. The question is will they grow very much.”

READ: ‘Some fields will not be harvestable’: Over 50 per cent of N.S. blueberry crops lost to frost

Elderkin owns Elderkin’s Farm Market in Wolfville. He says a third of the strawberries at his farm have been lost this year because of the weather.

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“We saw frost damage well before the big freeze in small amounts. Not anything out of the ordinary other than it wasn’t one frost, we probably had ten or a dozen frosts this Spring with one freeze so it’s been an ongoing thing. It’s been a very strange Spring,” said Elderkin.

“We don’t know what else it will affect. Cherries will be coming on now or very soon and we don’t know what they’ll be like. We may not know until we’re finished it, if we end up with half a crop or a full crop or a tenth of a crop.”

Farmers say there will still be local strawberries this year and they don’t expect the price of berries to change but the volume of strawberries will be down.

The U-Pick at Elderkin’s Farm Market was open Saturday but hasn’t been open since.

“We’re not turning people away but we don’t want to give them false hope of getting ten flats of berries because the picking isn’t good enough to go out and get a lot of berries with us,” he said.

WATCH: Nova Scotia vineyards, farms facing potentially devastating crop loss due to frost

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia vineyards facing potentially devastating crop loss due to frost'
Nova Scotia vineyards facing potentially devastating crop loss due to frost

The level of damage to strawberries varies from farm to farm. In some cases, it even varies from field to field within the same farm. It just depends how the frost hit the crops and whether or not there was any protection in place.

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“Depending on their level of mitigation, in terms of what they had to protect themselves from the frost, that determined what they’re harvesting right now.” said Josh Oulton, owner of Tap Root Farms and past president of Horticulture Nova Scotia.

“Some people are harvesting lots of strawberries and some people aren’t so lucky because even with the mitigation they had, the frost, which was actually not a frost, it was a freeze, was so hard that it went right through the protection they had in place.”

WATCH: After a fantastic bloom, things were looking up for Nova Scotia’s blueberry farmers. But low temperatures and the frost that followed negated that progress. Natasha Pace has more.

Click to play video: 'Over 50 per cent of Nova Scotia blueberry crops lost to frost'
Over 50 per cent of Nova Scotia blueberry crops lost to frost

Elderkin says he didn’t have any protection in place for his berries.

“We have quite a few small fields and we were not able to put in frost protection, we didn’t have enough equipment to cover our fields the way it was laid out,” he told Global News. “Some of the larger growers that had equipment to cover it will be in better shape then we are and there’s some people that are probably in the same shape we are.”

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The strawberry industry in Nova Scotia is worth close to $20 million annually.

At this point, Elderkin says it’s too early to determine how this year’s crop will impact his bottom line.

“We had a good rain last Thursday,” said Elderkin. “Whether that will help or whether the plants have been hurt and they may not grow as much as we’d like to see them. Our picking is certainly the worst we’ve had in a number of years.”

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