Bluberry u-pick is back in session in Langley – but with a number of changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Krause Berry Farms’ u-pick began on Monday, July 13, two days before B.C.’s official Blueberry Day on July 15.
But as with all things, the u-pick season has been changed by the requirements of COVID-19.
Everyone picking berries this year must wear a mask and gloves – including for the short shuttle bus ride between the main Krause farm and Farm 2, where the berry fields are located.
“We’ve done lots of different things in our protocols to ensure they are safe,” said Sandee Krause of Krause Berry Farms.
U-pick is first-come, first served, no outside containers will be allowed, and there will be sanitizing stations. Those picking are asked not to eat any berries so as to avoid touching their mouths and then touching the plants.
Commercial harvesting is also going on at local farms, and u-pick will extend through much of the rest of the summer, according to Alf Krause.
A cooler, damper summer means slower growing and a longer season, while warm weather will mean the berries ripen a bit faster, but late August or early September is likely around the end of the season, Alf said.
The wet weather means things are starting a bit later than last year.
“The berries are coming along nicely right now,” Alf said.
There have been issues, both related to weather and to COVID-19.
The size of the crop looks okay, but might be affected by a lack of pollination related to the wetter-than-normal summer.
Also, farmers are having trouble finding labour for picking crops, Alf said.
Getting foreign and local workers is more difficult this year. People are having trouble travelling to work, others are worried about heading outside and being around others.
Other u-pick options area also opening up around Langley, including Driediger’s Farm and Weller U-Pick Blueberry Farm are also opening or have already opened.
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While u-pick has become more complicated, the province is still planning some celebrations of the berry.
Blueberry Day events will be largely online this year.
GoBlueBC.com will host how-to videos, chef and grower interviews, recipes, and family activities.
There will also be gift-card prizes, and the grand prize is $1,000 in gift cards donated by White Spot and Triple-O’s.
B.C. is a major blueberry production centre, with more than 600 growers, whose farms cover more than 30,000 hectares across the province.