STONEWALL -- It's been a berry good year so far for pickers and producers in Manitoba.
The 80 members of the Prairie Fruit Growers Association in Manitoba are having good-to-average seasons, despite a bitter winter and chilly spring.
"Our spring was tough but I've heard most growers are doing very well," said Waldo Thiessen, the Prairie Fruit Growers Association's executive director. "I would say overall, it's an average year."
Murray Boonstra said his Boonstra Farms, near Stonewall, is having a booming season.
"We had just an unbelievable weekend last weekend," said Boonstra, amid a steady stream of customers on a sunny Monday afternoon. "We had 3,500 people out here last Saturday. We had four tractors going (to carry customers out to the fields) all day. It was just unbelievable crowds. Everybody was getting fruit and everybody was leaving with what they wanted."
Boonstra, the farm's owner since 1988, said he enjoyed "picture-perfect" growing conditions this season.
"You couldn't have prayed for better weather for strawberries. It was nice temperatures in the day and cooler at night. Raspberries are a bumper crop this year," he said.
Boonstra said it's been an average yield for strawberries but picking season will be over in the next of day or so. Raspberries will be available for another couple of weeks.
Angie Cormier of Cormier's Berry Patch, located seven minutes from the south Perimeter Highway near La Salle, said it's prime strawberry picking at her farm right now.
"We're having a good season but it started a bit late for us because of the cool weather. Things took a bit longer to ripen," she said, noting that means Cormier's will have strawberries through next week so people can still come and pick.
"That's what we're hoping, is people can still get what they're looking for. We're thinking another 10 days or so," said Cormier, who has owned Cormier's with her husband, Darren, for eight years.
Out in Boonstra's strawberry patch on Monday, Lindsey Mitton, 32, her daughters Elora, 6, and Adrianna, 4, and son Callen, 2, came from Winnipeg and were making a day of it. They rode the tractor-pulled wagon out to the fields with a stroller for Callen, had their lunch in a cooler and a plan that included berry-picking and more.
"There's bunnies! I love the bunnies!" said Elora. "The berries are good. My favourite part is eating them. But I really want to see the bunnies. I loved playing with the kittens last year."
Mitton said she has picked berries at Boonstra once a year for five years.
"The strawberries are small this year but they're really tasty," she said. "The kids really like all the other things they have here; the tractor ride, the petting zoo, ice cream."
Meisha Monsigneur, 12, and her mom Monique, 45, didn't let their previous late night at the Beyoncé and Jay Z concert stop them from picking two baskets of berries at Boonstra.
"My mom said we could go after I was at my friend's house and she picked some strawberries from here, I had some and they tasted really good," said Meisha. Monique said she planned to make jam out of the raspberries they would pick next.
Lynne Moyce, 67, came with her granddaughter, Shannon Moyce, 20. Lynne came prepared with a stool to sit on even though it was her first time picking at Boonstra.
"We used to pick saskatoons when we were kids and eat them until we threw up, but I haven't picked anything since then so this a better experience," she said, laughing.
Michelle Dagenais, 32, chatted in French with her mother-in-law Solange Bisaillon, 61, who is visiting from Quebec as the two picked raspberries. Dagenais' daughter Gabrielle, 21/2 months, snoozed in the stroller beside her.
"I came once already this season for strawberries and it was awesome. It was incredible, it took us no time at all to fill a four-litre pail," said Dagenais, a Canadian Forces member stationed at CFB Winnipeg.