It’s been a frustrating season for berry picking farms across the province with some ‘U-Pick’ sites choosing to stay closed this year due to a late May frost.
The patches that remained open have been forced to make major changes in the middle of an extreme berry shortage.
“Overall we’re probably going to be a third of a normal year in terms of total production,” said Darren Cormier, who co-owns Cormier’s Berry Patch in La Salle, Man., with his wife Angie.
“It’s been a matter of how do you manage the volume of people but with a very limited supply,” he explained.
It’s the same problem berry farms across Manitoba are facing this summer after a tough spring followed by an intense drought.
“The main reason was the late frost at the end of May and course the heat, on top of that no rain,” said Theresa Ley, the owner of Blue Sky Berry Farm just south of Oakbank.
The dry conditions have made berry picking look a lot different this year compared to previous years.
“We’ve chosen to go to an appointment system, that just helps us moderate and manage how many people come out based on how much we have available the next day for picking,” said Cormier.
“Another thing we’ve done is to limit picking to two baskets per person.”
At Blue Sky Berry Farm, an appointment is not required but the demand is through the roof.
“We usually sell raspberries too but they didn’t even make it. They were so low and so thin, they had no chance this year. The picking for strawberries it would be enormous because we got lots of customers but there’s just not enough there,” said Ley.
Depending on how hot things get over the next week, it’s likely that only ten days or less remain in this year’s picking season.
“The taste of the berries this year is very good, they still taste very good. There’s just not enough,” Ley said.