Ministry of Agriculture

Blueberries


WHAT ARE BLUEBERRIES?

[blueberries]Blueberries are small, round dark blue berries. A berry is a small juicy fruit without a stone.

WHERE ARE BLUEBERRIES PRODUCED IN BC?

99% of BC blueberries are grown in the Fraser Valley in Richmond, Pitt Meadows, Matsqui Prairie and Surrey.

HOW MANY BLUEBERRIES DO WE PRODUCE?

[blueberries]BC produces about 95% of the Canadian production of cultivated blueberries. This is about 9 million kilograms per year. About 70% of these are processed; the others are bought fresh for export and local consumption through stores and farmgate outlets. In BC, about 2045 ha are farmed by over 450 farm families.

HOW ARE BLUEBERRIES PRODUCED?

[blueberries]Blueberries require an acidic soil. Good drainage and nutrient balance is important for blueberries. Blueberries were once grown only on peat (drained bogs), but now production is moving into areas of mineral soil.

A blueberry plant is started from a plant cutting rooted in rooting soil. The first year is spent in a greenhouse and then the bush is planted in rows in a field. A mulch is placed around the plants. The main advantage of mulching is to regulate the soil temperatures. Blueberries are very shallow rooted and can be affected by high or low soil temperatures. A mulch also keeps the soil moist, aids in water conservation, and keeps the weeds down. Plants must be pruned each year to ensure good quality berries. If there is too much excess growth, the berries will be small. Pollination is important. Farmers rent bee hives during flowering to ensure good pollination. A blueberry plant can grow to 2 to 2.5m and can live up to 50 years.

Berries are harvested 2 to 4 times usually every 10 to 14 days between July and September. Berries for the fresh market are hand-picked -- one-by-one from the bush! Berries for the processed market are harvested using self-propelled harvesters. More growers are moving towards machine picking because of the cost of labour relative to the price of blueberries.

Blueberries are deciduous plants which loose their leaves. Fall leaf colour ranges from yellow to crimson to dark red. Leaf colour also changes in early spring and summer after periods of cool temperature to dull purple over dark green background.

WHAT DO BLUEBERRIES LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?

Blueberries can be eaten fresh or processed into pie filling, jam, jelly or syrup. They are also frozen, processed into baked goods, muffin mixes and purees.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE BLUEBERRIES LEAVE THE FARM?

After harvest the berries are either sold fresh or sent to a processor or packer. There are about 10 processors and packers, including a farmer-owned cooperative called Lulabelle which consists of about 250 farmers. From here, blueberries are distributed to wholesalers who export BC blueberries throughout the world including the U.S., Europe, Japan and Australia.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO BLUEBERRY PRODUCERS FACE?

In the 1980s, the blueberry industry realized they needed to increase the demand for their product. The North American Blueberry Council (NABC) organized a major, co-operative promotional campaign all across the continent. The industry supplied recipes, did in-store demonstrations and helped retailers with special promotions. The result was a 200% increase in demand for blueberries. Marketing is a continuing challenge as acreage is increasing. The BC Blueberry Council (associated with NABC) does promotion for BC farmers. Farmers pay 1 cent/lb to the council for promotion and research.

A second challenge is trying to protect crops from birds which are major predators of blueberries. Farmers use sound devices and control devices such as hawk kites and balloons to scare birds. Some municipalities, in areas with encroaching urban populations, have regulated the use of sound devices because of complaints from urban residents.

WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING BLUEBERRIES?

  • Blueberry producers
  • Field workers for crop maintenance
  • Pickers
  • Transporters/truckers
  • Pest management services
  • Researchers
  • Extension workers
  • Market/promotion workers,
  • Fertilizer and pesticide salespeople
  • Nursery workers and owners (for nursery stock)

Nutritional Facts

Serving Size: 1 cup blueberries (140g)
Calories 80 Calories from Fat 0
  % Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 5%
Dietary Fibre 5g 20%
Sugars 9g  
Protein 1g  
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 15%
Calcium 0% Iron 0%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Interesting Fact About Blueberries:

BC is one of the top three blueberry producing regions in the world. In the last 10 or 15 years, per capita consumption of blueberries has doubled.


Contacts and other resources:
 
BC Blueberry Council
BCMAL - Berry Information
North American Blueberry Council