Former Stephenville man proposing raspberry farm at Spruce Brook

Diane
Diane Crocker
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[Corner Brook, NL] — With about three years of experience blueberry farming under his belt, David Walsh figured he was ready to try a new venture.

So when the Logy Bay (Newfoundland & Labrador) resident decided he'd like to try his hand at growing raspberries, he knew the perfect spot for it.

Walsh has applied to the provincial department of Environment and Conservation for permission to develop a raspberry farm at Spruce Brook on the north side of George's Lake, south of Corner Brook.

Walsh is originally from Stephenville and already has four acres of land where he hopes to start Spruce Brook Farms. He's also looking to acquire another 14 acres of Crown land.

Walsh knows what the growing and soil conditions are like in the area and said the sandy soil is perfect for raspberries.

A good seller

His reason for venturing into raspberries is quite simple. "Raspberries sell really good and get a pretty good price."

He's sure he'll find a market for his crops in local supermarkets and thinks it will be a good venture for the west coast.

"I think we need more local farms," said Walsh.

Walsh said Spruce Brook Farms will be a relatively small venture.

His plan is to develop the farm over with next three to five years.

If the project gets the necessary approvals and he acquires the land needed, Walsh hopes to be able to start clearing the land this fall.

He'll put in a few cover crops for a year or two to help with weeds.

Once he starts planting raspberries, it will be at a pace of about four acres a year until he has about 12 acres in total.

He said raspberries generally take about two years to start yielding berries.

"But if things go good, I might be able to accelerate it," he said.

The construction phase will also include building a farm access road, ditching of fields, installation of an irrigation system and constructing a storage building and trellis system.

Walsh will also be looking to acquire funding to help with the venture and purchase of equipment.

He figures he needs about $150,000 to get started and will look at programs like Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Growing Forward initiative.

Once up and running, the farm could employ one or two full-time seasonal workers and three to four more during harvest time.

Farming is a secondary career for Walsh and while the last three years of blueberry farming have not been the best, dealing with poor weather in general and losing crops to hurricane Igor two years ago, he's not afraid of branching out.

"That's why I got to looking at going to raspberries, because you've got a bit more control there."

He said things like the irrigation system will help so that you're not totally at the whims of nature.

Walsh's Harbour Grace blueberry farm is certified organic and he would like to eventually have a portion of the raspberry farm to be the same.

He said that would evolve over time as he determines if he will have access to enough compost to enable the farm to thrive without the use of fertilizers.

Thinking of the future he said he'd also like to try growing wine grapes out there as well.

Walsh's proposal was registered with the department on June 18 and the deadline for public comments is July 23. The minister's decision is due by Aug. 2.

For further information on the process, please contact the director of environmental assessment at 709-729-4211 or toll-free at 1-800-563-6181.

Western Star

Organizations: Department of Environment and Conservation, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Geographic location: Stephenville, Logy Bay, Corner Brook Western Star

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