Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba berry farms packed with pickers

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Lindsay Drummond is off to an early start on her Christmas shopping.

She's been out picking strawberries, which she will use to make gifts come the festive season.

"I make jam for our family. It's a big thing to give as gifts at Christmas time," said the Winnipeg resident. "My raspberry jam is more popular, so I'm waiting for raspberry season to open, too."

Despite the hot weather and mosquitoes this summer, strawberry pickers can't stay away from Manitoba's berry farms.

'You don't want it to be a dying industry and it's so much cheaper'

-- Lindsay Drummond, on supporting the local berry industry

More than 2,000 people picked berries at Boonstra Farm, 15 kilometres north of Winnipeg, Wednesday.

"We're almost all picked out. We were picked out two days ago and had to let the berries ripen for a day," said owner Murray Boonstra. "As people are moving up the row, the strawberries are ripening up behind them."

Berry picking is not only important for health reasons, but for the industry as well.

"You know where your berries are coming from and you're supporting a Manitoba market, which is very important because it's so short," said Drummond. "You don't want it to be a dying industry and it's so much cheaper."

This winter, Drummond will reward herself with trifles and smoothies made from the berries she picked this summer.

Some Manitoba residents don't mind picking as long as they don't have to sit on the ground for too long.

"Last year, I didn't have a chair so I was kneeling most of the time and my pants were all red," said Hilde Olsen. "I don't like to pick too many."

The St. Clements resident said she needed a break from store-bought berries and took a day trip to Boonstra Farms.

"I buy grocery berries all year long and they don't taste the same as something that's picked from the vine," she said.

Sandra Prince was out berry picking for her grandchildren on Wednesday.

"I used to do this as a kid and swore I'd never do it again -- and here I am," said Prince. "We used to go out and it'd be really hot and the bugs would be biting."

The Prairie Fruit Growers Association said this summer has been an average year for berry farms in Manitoba. The association said 66 per cent of berry farms have opened up their fields this week, while many are still waiting for their berries to ripen.

"Sometimes it's just too cold in the winter and plants can freeze, or there's too much water," said Waldo Thiessen, executive director of the Prairie Fruit Growers Association.

"Some farms are good this year and some are bad, it just varies," he said.

elizabeth.fraser@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 6:40 AM CDT: replaces photo, fixes pull quote, changes headline

8:41 AM: adds fact box

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