Ripe for the picking

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Local berry grower sees great season so far

It’s no surprise that while everyone was on lockdown nature flourished outside with little human influence.

It has been a good year for strawberries with no major frost concerns and lots of sunshine and rain to help the berries grow.

With all the help from Mother Nature, strawberry season started off with a boom in Pictou County this year with berries all over the county ripe for the picking. Small berry outfit Car-Isle Berries, in Caribou Island, is happy with the growing season so far this year and what it has done for their berries.

“We had no difficulties with frost,” said Alan Jankov, owner along with his wife Gail. The couple once had fields of berries covering Caribou Island but have scaled back in recent years as they reach older ages. The business has been a family affair from the start, he shared, with the couple having their kids work in the field berry picking as a summer job when they were younger. In total, he has been in the berry business for 65 years now.

The berry field owner did share that he has had some trouble so far this year with weeds, however, he takes a different approach than some berry growers and weeds his fields rather than using any solutions or weed or bug killers on his strawberries. With no pesticides or weed killers used, his berries are ready to eat from the wild, with the care of Jankov weeding the field and checking in on them, of course.

Fields at Parker’s farm in Durham as well as MacLean’s Strawberries, also in Durham, have also opened for the season. Calls were made to both farms to discuss their growing season with no answer as of press time.

As people just begin to get out and about again after being isolated due to public health concerns surrounding COVID-19, Jankov shared that he has been having trouble finding berry pickers this year to help bring in their harvest from the strawberries and later on the late-season raspberries he grows in the same field as the one he was picking last week.

With the sweet smell of berries and a hint of salt from the ocean, it’s surprising that more wouldn’t want to spend their days sitting in the field with the breeze fresh off the ocean cooling them down on Caribou Island. The patch that Jankov was picking from this day was surrounded by water and away from the road, quiet and calm with some long grass separating the field from the ocean and sunny skies.

At the end of the season, Jankov will mow down his strawberry bushes and let them regrow like new next year, something he has been doing for a number of years. Until then, he will be coming back to the patch with pickers every few days to collect the new berries.

“We can usually pick every second or third day,” he said.

In the future, he said he doesn’t see himself putting away the berry boxes anytime soon.

“It keeps us outside, it keeps us going,” he said about the business. “The thought of sitting on the doorstep doesn’t appeal to me.”

Jorja Matchem, 11, left, and Reese Nicholson, 11, are two of Alan Jankov’s strawberry pickers this summer at Car-Isle Berries. (Brimicombe photo)