Peter Breederland has been a farmer for close to 40 years.
He started in the industry when he was 16 years old in his native Holland and carried on when he came to Canada 27 years ago.
And for the past 23 years, the now 54-year-old has successfully run Topgro Greenhouses Ltd. on his 50-acre property in Aldergrove.
But his greenhouse operation was only using 10 acres of his property to produce sweet mini bell peppers and he was looking to expand, so he set out to find his next venture.
“I was looking for something new, something different to do,” he explained.
While brainstorming for ideas for his next crop, he came across the goji berry.
The goji is a bright orange-red, bean-shaped berry which contains a mix of vitamins (A and C), antioxidants, minerals, amino acids and protein and studies have shown they can boost energy and metabolism.
The berries have a sweet, tart taste and have long been a staple of the Asian diet.
The goji berry is also native to China, which made learning about it all the more difficult for Breederland.
This was five years ago and what followed next was a whole lot of research and different experiments.
“There is very little information available so we had to do a lot of research,” Breederland explained.
Some of the research included how to grow the plants, how to fertilize, which fertilizer to use, how to prune the bushes, possible insects, and more.
All of this was done from scratch, with Breederland relying on his farming know-how as well as some trial and error.
And in 204, he produced his first crop of goji berries.
Breederland now has 10 acres on his property devoted to growing goji berries.
In addition to serving the local Asian market, Breederland said his product is perfect as more and more people are becoming health conscious and monitoring what they are putting in their bodies.
The berries — which are in season from early June until Labour Day — are hand-picked for sale at local markets while the remainder is machine-picked.
And in addition to growing the berries, Breederland started Gojoy Berries.
One of their main products is a Goji superfruit smoothie booster, which contains five frozen puree pouches.
Each pouch contains half goji berries while the other half is a mix of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and blackberries. All of the berries are B.C. grown.
“You access six berries. You get the antioxidants, the vitamins known for every particular berry, you have them all together, so it is a very convenient addition to your smoothie,” Breederland explained.
They also sell boxes of the frozen berries.
The berries can also be used in food and desserts with
recipes available at www.gojoy.ca.
The berries and smoothie booster packs are available in 40 stores around B.C. as well as some stores in Alberta.
And for this first time this year, Breederland will be offering u-pick options most likely twice a week, as well as a chance for people to purchase their own goji berry plants.