When harvest time comes around south of Nanaimo, the cranberry business is literally booming.
At Yellow Point Cranberries, located on Yellow Point Road in Ladysmith, workers don hip waders and lifejackets to slosh their way through flooded fields and corral cranberries with floating booms.
Yellow Point Cranberries was established in 2001 when Grant Keefer and his wife Justine purchased the property. The farm has produced the fruit commercially since 2009 on more than seven hectares of currently cultivated fields. Two more fields are also being prepared for fresh fruit production. Keefer’s family also raises cranberries from fields in Richmond and is one of about 80 families in B.C. that produce the fruit for Massachusetts-based agricultural co-operative Ocean Spray.
Keefer and a crew of workers were corralling the hectares of floating cranberries Tuesday by pulling floating booms around the berries to concentrate them into one area where they could be picked up with a conveyor that would deposit them into containers for shipment.
“I’m probably one of the last ones flooding right now,” Keefer said. “There’s probably still a couple of others going in B.C., but we’re getting down to the end.”
Keefer said it was a good harvest, but the berries are a bit smaller this year than they normally are, possibly because of a cooler summer.
“We didn’t have any excessive heat this summer and maybe that had something to do with it,” he said. “The really hot [weather], sometimes, pushes them, but it wasn’t a bad growing season.”
The majority of the fruit will be sent to Ocean Spray to make cranberry juice and sauce.
“I also have, what we call, independent acres and that’s what I sell fresh fruit [from] for going to the 49th Parallel Grocery and [other stores], farmers’ markets and everything else,” Keefer said. “But Ocean, they’re pretty good to us and they’re always good about letting us sell fruit off the farm – there’s no problem with that – because you’re promoting the product.”
To learn more about Yellow Point Cranberries, visit www.yellowpointcranberries.com.