Agriculture

Local fruit and vegetable farmers talk about season

By James Morgan

August 21, 2018

Local farmers grow fruits and vegetables and depend on just the right weather and economic conditions to make their work successful.  We’re in the mid to late summer harvest-time right now when berries, vegetables and sweet corn are being picked from local fields to be sold at roadside stands and enjoyed at our tables.  Two local fruit and vegetable farmers talked to The Review about how the growing season has been going for them. “It went really well” is how Michel Villeneuve of Les Vergers Villeneuve and Blueberry Farm in St-Pascal-Baylon described its recently-ended season for cultivated blueberries.  He said their season was even a bit longer this year at 25 days and the average is 21.  However, the berries were a bit smaller due to the dry conditions throughout much of the summer.  He described the blueberries as “quarter-sized” this year instead of “loonie-sized.” “Vergers” means orchards and Michel Villeneuve said his are looking “wonderful” right now.  “I’ve never seen so many apples on my trees,” he said about the ripening apple crop.  Pears are also grown in the orchards.  Villeneuve said the weather conditions have actually benefitted the apple crop. Grapes are a new crop at the Villeneuve farm and they’re used to make wine.  Earlier this year, Villeneuve purchased the wine-making business from Strathmore Orchard and Winery in Monkland and its former owner, Carmen Bender.  Villeneuve is now selling wine and other produce from his farm at farmer’s markets in Orleans, Cumberland, Cornwall, and sometimes Ottawa.  Blueberries from the farm are distributed through the Mariposa Duck Farm in Plantagenet to 120 restaurants.  Aside from markets and restaurant distribution, Villeneuve said most of his business comes from pick-your-own customers.  About 20 people from the surrounding area also work for Les Vergers Villeneuve and Blueberry Farm.  Most of them are students or retired people. At Les Jardins Lamoureux on Highway 34 outside Hawkesbury, the summer weather has been a challenge for fruit and vegetable crops there.  Jacques Lamoureux said things have been good, but the lack of rain has meant he’s had to water the crops every four days using an irrigation system.  He said that during a 10-day period with no precipitation, he lost $15,000 to $20,000 in crops. The fall strawberry season is now on and continues until the beginning of October.  The fall raspberry season usually ends in mid-September.  It’s bean and sweet corn time right now, too.  Lamoureux said sweet corn is planted every two weeks to create a constant harvest and meet demand.  He plants two types of seed, one is called “Fastlane,” and the other “Sweetness.”  Both are the bi-coloured kernel, “peaches and cream” variety that is most popular. “It’s my salary,” said Jacques Lamoureux about his fruit and vegetable farm, and the need for good weather and quality crops to keep customers buying.  “The business is good, people know us,” said the vegetable and berry farmer who has been in business for 18 years.  Lamoureux emphasized that everything he sells is grown on his farm and he is not a produce re-seller like many vendors are these days.  Forty to 65 people work for Jardins Lamoureux depending on the season.  Some are locals, but many are also African immigrants from Montréal who travel daily to work in the fields.  Aside from the farm location on Highway 34, Lamoureux also has stands set up in Vankleek Hill, Alexandria, Casselman, Alfred, Rockland, and Embrun.