U-pick returns to Langley – with physical distancing

Berry farmers are getting ready for an unusual season

Langley’s berry farmers are getting ready for a season transformed by a pandemic – but with U-pick in local fields.

“Everything’s changing daily,” noted Rhonda Driediger, of Driediger Farms, which produces strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

But she noted that change is pretty typical for farmers, who have to constantly adjust to weather and shifting markets for their products.

“You have to learn how to farm in a crisis, because every year is a crisis,” Driediger said.

Strawberries are set to ripen around early June, if the weather holds, and local farms are planning to harvest and to invite the public out to the fields.

“Everyone’s asking right now if u-pick will be open,” said Driediger.

She confirmed the plan is to host u-pick, with physical distancing between visitors to the fields. The farm is getting ready and is opening its market building on 72nd Avenue already, largely for pick up of advance sales.

As at public locations like grocery stores, the farm will provide guidelines for visitors, but it will be up to the visitors to stick to them and respect physical distancing, Driediger said.

One of the other issues farms are facing is labour.

Driediger Farms uses about 30 temporary foreign workers during the intense harvest season. A dozen of them arrived in Canada before the lockdown, and another 18 are scheduled to arrive in May or June.

Under current legislation, they’ll have to spend 14 days in quarantine before they can start work. The federal government is offering a $1,500 per worker supplement to help with that cost.

Driediger said she wasn’t sure if the workers will still have to be quarantined by the time they come up for the summer season, and the farm is waiting to see what happens.

Other farmers are also adjusting to the new rules.

Blueberries are expected to ripen starting in mid-June and different varieties will be harvested through the summer into late August or early September, said Leeann Froese, speaking for the B.C. Blueberry Council.

While there are temporary foreign workers used in some blueberry harvesting, there are even more local, Canadian citizens who take part in the harvest as seasonal workers.

National numbers showed that as of the end of April, the number of foreign workers who had already arrived in Canada was about 85 per cent of the number from April of 2019, Froese said.

It isn’t known if more workers will be arriving in May or not, or if Canadian employers will use fewer foreign workers this year.

“It’s expected those seasonal workers will come back,” Froese said. “There may be the opportunity to grow that work force.”

By the time of the peak of harvest, every worker is needed on berry farms, Froese noted.

Other local farms are also adjusting to the changes. Krause Berry Farms, another longtime local farm, has partnered up with Joseph Richards Group restaurants, who are now carrying the Krause frozen pies, frozen berries, and preserves as part of the JRG curb side take out and DIY meal kit services the restaurants have launched in the Lower Mainland.

So far, while the pandemic has caused a lot of adjustments, the weather has been good for local farmers, according to Driediger and Froese.

“We’re pretty optimistic,” Driediger said.

FarmingLangley

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley Lodge reports one new COVID-19 death, bringing total to 24

Death toll surpassed 22 on Wednesday, making that specific outbreak the deadliest in B.C.

IHIT names homicide victim found in the Fraser Canyon this week

Police asking for tips into the suspicious death of 29-year-old Alicia Berg

Langley Animal Protection Society raises more than $13,000 through annual fundraiser

Furry Tails race was held online due to COVID-19, becoming their most successful year to date

VIDEO: Seventy-two Langley Fine Arts students record collaboration on their cellphones

Musicians performed Lake from Patrick Hawes’ work The Blue Bird Variations

VIDEO: Langley Fundamental jazz band performs for local seniors every Thursday

Music group joined by graduates looking to celebrate and spread cheer in the community

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Aldergrove Star to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Most Read