With his strawberries in production 10 days earlier than usual, Louis Gosselin is expecting a long, fruitful summer on his 100-acre farm on the Island of Orleans, just east of Quebec City in the St. Lawrence River.
“It’s not too warm, not too wet. It’s just perfect for good quality berries,” Gosselin said in mid-June.
Between his jewel and seascape day-neutral variety, Gosselin and his son Gabriel expect to harvest berries until the middle of October for wholesale, retail and their farmers market stall in Quebec City.
In a good year, Ferme Francois Gosselin can produce 1 million pounds of berries, most packed in cardboard baskets with plastic handles or clamshells.
All bear the “Les Fraiches du Quebec” logo, launched in 2009.
Berry producers across the province are happy with this year’s season so far, said Caroline Thibeault, executive director of the Quebec strawberry and raspberry growers association, based in Longueuil.
Some growers began harvesting strawberries as early as May 18, while raspberries are on track for a normal season.
Berries kept warm by a light tarp resembling a dryer sheet were in full production by mid-June, Thibault said, along with the first open-field strawberries.
With hot weather June 12-18 ripening berries quickly, all signs point to plenty of berries for Quebec’s annual June 24 St. Jean Baptiste holiday weekend, she said.
Gosselin said the market is “not too bad” considering its early start.
“Sometimes when it’s too early we have many problems with the market because the customers aren’t ready to buy local fruit,” he said.
“This year, we have a good strategy and we’re getting good support from the media.”
Having a number of good Quebec growers in the 100-acre range makes it easier to work with chain stores on promotions, Gosselin said.
He said his main challenge this summer is improving food safety under the Canada good agricultural practices system and finding a better way to trace his berries.
“When you use a bar code on the box it’s no good once you remove a basket or clamshell from the box,” he said.
“We haven’t found a better way to trace the baskets, but we’re working on it.”