Where have all the growers gone? Strawberry acres down by almost half
Island strawberry growers retiring faster than they're being replaced
Strawberries are becoming a rarer crop on P.E.I., as the acreage has plummeted in recent years as has the number of growers.
"It concerns us," said Matthew Compton, president of the P.E.I. Strawberry Growers Association.
"We want Island berries in Island homes. We don't want Nova Scotia berries or other berries because we know we can put a good product on the table."
P.E.I. had 41 hectares of commercial strawberry crops in 2016, according to Statistics Canada. That's down from 79 hectares in 2011.
About a dozen commercial growers remain, down from 20 a few years ago, according to Compton. P.E.I.'s strawberry growers are getting old and retiring.
"I'm probably about the youngest grower on the Island that grows any amount of acreage right now," said Compton, 32. "They're a highly managed crop … it takes a year to establish a strawberry field and in that year you're clipping blossoms off plants, you're tucking in runners, you're managing it, keeping weeds out. It's a lot of work."
'We see where the opportunities are for us to grow'
Still, he said Island strawberry producers who continue in the game are looking for opportunities. Compton has doubled the size of new strawberry fields he's planting this year, with an eye to boosting production.
"We've seen the demand. We see where the opportunities are for us to grow and me, as a young farmer, you have to take the opportunity where it's met and grow your farm to be sustainable for the future," said Compton.
And he's hopeful for this season's crop.
"The blossoms are there," said Compton. "The bees are in the field working now so just it's just a matter of time."