Island strawberry growers hoping for mix of wet weather and sun
[Summerside, PEI] — Rain, not a flood, sun and no frost, please.
That’s (Sherbrooke, Prince Edward Island) strawberry grower Sheila Compton’s prayer to the weather gods these days.
In a business that depends on the weather, Compton admitted there are a lot of sleepless nights, and hours spent online checking forecasts.
“The last few nights and even last week they were talking about a chance of frost. Those nights I don’t sleep,” said Compton, who has 15 acres of strawberries in production. “Farming is such a worrisome occupation because your whole livelihood depends on what falls and what doesn’t fall from the sky.”
And what’s not falling from the sky these days is rain.
Recent (June 20) dry weather has left Island strawberry growers hoping for rain, and soon, so berries can ripen and be ready for picking as early as next week.
Already, Nova Scotia strawberries are on the shelves, selling for $4.99 a box in some Island stores. Berries from the neighbouring province tend to be ripe a week to 10 days ahead of Prince Edward Island berries.
“We need two days of nice rain,” said Compton, who owns and operates Compton’s Very Berry Patch in Sherbrooke. “It is seriously dry. The crop is going to be small if we don’t get some rain.”
Alan Rennie, owner of Rennie’s U-Pick Strawberries in Alma, said a couple of days of light rain and sun would make a huge difference in the size of his crop.
“A little shower once a week would be good,” said Rennie, who has 12 acres of berries in production. “There’s actually a few ripe berries out in the field right now but not enough to open the gates to let people in to pick.”
He hopes to start picking early next week (June 25) and have his berries in local stories and roadside. Weather permitting Rennie expects to open his U-Pick operation to those eager for red, pump Island berries as early as Wednesday.
The crop is just going to be average,” he added. “It’s not going to be a big crop. It dried up early and we had blossoms out early but it is going to be an average year.”
Barry Clohossey has six acres of strawberries in production on his Nail Pond farm.
“It’s dry,” said Clohossey. “So far, I would say we are going to have a good crop. There’s kind of a lack of bees but we brought bees in so that’s taken care of.”
Clohossey, who got back into the strawberry business almost a decade ago, said his plants weathered the winter well.
“The plants look good and the blossoms are real nice,” he added. “There are a few berries out but nothing that you would be opening up to pick.”
All three producers sell berries to local stores, at roadside stands and have U-Pick operations.
When asked about price, it varied from $1.10 to $1.30 for U-Pick and $3.25 to $3.50 a quart for berries roadside.
“We start at $3.25 but it all depends on how long Nova Scotia starts that we hit the market,” said Rennie.
It’s a short season, last a maximum of four weeks.
“There would be good money in it if you had two months of it but, when you only have a month you can’t make too many mistakes,” added Rennie.
For now, all three farmers are keeping a close eye on the forecast, which is calling for showers Friday through Tuesday.
Compton hopes that the weatherman is right.
“If we could get a nice, light gentle rain for two days it would be a $10-million rain,” said Compton. “All the farmers right now, the potato farmers, need rain. That’s the long and the short of it.”