Sask. farmers under pressure with berries in full bloom on Prairies

Saskatoon berries are out in full force on the Prairies and so are other fruits. This is good news for produce lovers, but has some farmers scrambling.

Fruit on the prairies will ripen 2 to 3 weeks early, says U of S professor

Fruit in Saskatchewan is ripening early this year. (Submitted by Dana McBride)

Saskatoon berries are already ripe and they aren't the only fruit that's early — putting the pressure on some Saskatchewan farmers.

"You're not quite mentally prepared for such an early season. You usually have the long weekend and you can kind of float into the berry season," said Sandy Purdy, president of the Saskatoon Berry Council.

Purdy produces Saskatoon berries on an 53-hectare orchard in Keeler, Sask., with her business called Prairie Berries.

"I cannot remember a season since I've been in this business that has been this early," she said.

"It was quite a shock to the system."

The premature arrival has been a strain on the company. Usually it uses the first few weeks in July to prepare to bring in the harvest, she said.

Now the whole process has been pushed ahead.

The workers have spent the past few weeks prematurely ordering in baskets, sending early notices to seasonal employees and hastily getting organized to bring in the berries. 

Busy bees, ideal weather

"The warm weather has sped things up and we had rather dry conditions, which caused the bees to well-pollinate all of the fruit crops. Not only is it early, we're getting really high yields," said Bob Bors, head of the fruit program at the University of Saskatchewan and assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. 

"[The bees] don't go out if it's cold and if it's rainy they'll stay home, and it's been just beautiful during the whole bloom period, so any bees that are out there have lots to do," Bors said.

In addition to an abundance of Saskatoon berries, there are cherries, haskaps, strawberries and other bush fruits that are ripe or nearly ready. Bors said all fruit in Saskatchewan will be ready for picking two to three weeks earlier than normal. 

Bors said there could be 30 per cent more fruit yield this year in comparison to the average year. 

The fruit is also healthier than usual. 

"Because it was kind of dry in June the plants that get more diseases get less this year," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition