In early May at the annual Slow Food in Canada National Conference in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, a number of us toured local farms, maple sugar camps and fields outside of our scheduled meetings. One such spot was right off the highway in Earltown where we explored wild blueberry fields run by one of the conference organizers, Angus Bonnyman and his family; Bonnymans’ Wild Blueberries.
Spray-Free Wild Blueberries (no Herbicides or Pesticides)
Blueberries reign supreme in this part of Nova Scotia and many conference delegates shared a blue-toothed grin, as this tiny fruit was worked into almost every meal we had. That afternoon, as we piled out of our rented school bus, I’m sure most of us were thinking the same thing—there isn’t really much to see here. No blooms, no bees, no berries… just endless, empty land.
Wild Blueberry Crops
We were wrong. As the boys set up a small amp with a microphone, like a scene out of an indie short film, we all started to see just how beautiful the swaths of red, yellow, brown and almost purple that the fields actually resembled.
Angus and Allan C Bonnyman
They told us about themselves and their crops. Angus Bonnyman, a third-generation wild blueberry producer, along with his father, 64-year-old Allan C. Bonnyman, second generation grower, work on approximately 80 hectares (200 acres) of wild blueberry land each season, harvesting in early to mid-August. Bonnymans’ Wild Blueberries has been in business for 40 years, starting in 1971 when Angus’ grandfather, Carl Bonnyman, began clearing the land by hand for the crops.
Wild Blueberry Crops
Wild blueberries are not always planted but can be found in crops up in the natural succession of a forest area that has been disturbed by fire or disease. It’s a delicate balance, as the grower’s job is to manage an area to encourage the berry to grow, instead of allowing natural reforestation. Soil management plays a critical role in allowing the blueberries to flourish; the fields are hand-weeded and fertilized with compost tea and lobster shells. Burning fields after the harvest is part of the pruning routine, which helps reduce disease, weed and insect pressure.
Fresh-Frozen and Spray-Free Blueberries Delivered to my Home as Post-Conference Gift
The Bonnymans certainly have their work cut out for them, working from field to field, season to season. The family also produces a limited amount of spray-free (no herbicides or pesticides) wild blueberries and sells them directly to consumers, usually as fresh-frozen. I was lucky enough to score a few boxes by the end of the conference, and have been working them into smoothies ever since. Now that I had the opportunity to witness how much was happening in a barren-looking field, I will be heading back with a crowd at harvest time in August to pick them in all their glory. You can be sure this will be one happy, blue-toothed girl once again!