Tuesday, 3 August 2010
A Visit to Blueberry Knoll
We went down to Port Colborne to visit my father and his partner this weekend. He's often talked about going to Blueberry Knoll, home of Brian and Linda Young, to pick blueberries. Since I had never gone blueberry picking before I suggested a trip out to pick some.
Blueberry Knoll is at 1091 Hutchinson Road, in Lowbanks, just south of Highway 3. It's always a good idea to phone - 905-774-7732 - for information about picking conditions before you head out. During the season they are open 8 am to 8 pm weekdays, and 8 am to 5 pm Saturdays; closed Sundays.
As with most berry crops, the number one pests for blueberry growers are birds. Each blueberry patch is enclosed in a large, large net. Keep in mind that the resulting net "room" has about a 9' clearance... that should give you some idea of the size. Or to put it another way; you could get a baseball diamond in there easily. We saw 4 such netted fields on the farm. Without the netting, about 1/3 of the crop would be lost to birds.
We picked in their newest patch, above, planted in 2003. The oldest patch is almost 20 years old, and must be pruned to 8' to keep the bushes from entangling with the netting, and from being too high to pick. These ones could have been a little higher to make my back perfectly happy, but they were not particularly difficult to pick.
The bushes were clearly labelled by variety, and were loaded with berries, ripe and unripe. It didn't take too long to pick all we wanted.
We could have picked raspberries as well, if we had wanted to.
Blueberry Knoll takes their berries to the Port Colborne and Welland farmers markets; they grow some raspberries in a greenhouse to provide early berries for the markets.
When you are done picking, you head to their garage to pay.
The garage is set up as a small shop.
They also sell some honey, preserves, baking...
... frozen berries and other frozen items.
A member of the family sorts and packs berries...
...And since we were there Thursday afternoon, we probably saw those same berries the next morning at the Port Colborne farmers market.
Like many Ontario farms, Blueberry Knoll is about 100 acres, of which almost a third are wooded. They have about 6 acres of blueberries, about 4 acres of raspberries, and another 4 to 6 acres in strawberries at any time. They can't grow blueberries anywhere on the property; they require acidic soil. Whenever they plan to plant a new blueberry field, the spot is treated with sulphur for several years first to increase the acidity.