According to Debbie Evans, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s (RDBN) agriculture coordinator, the haskpap berry – also known as “super berry” – is something to be excited about in the region.
Although Evans is only aware of three producers currently growing haskap in the region, she says there’s plenty of opportunity for growth.
“There is definitely an opportunity for growth of the haskap industry within the RDBN, especially if a distillery is established,” said Evans. “A potential distillery could be coming to the region.”
“Promotion and marketing of this super berry to consumers and establishing product in local groceries, farmer’s markets and direct sales can grow the market,” she added.
The super berry is ideal for Canadian weather, being able to withstand -40 C temperatures. The flowers have been known to survive and set fruit after withstanding -11 C.
Evans says key to growing haskap is knowing about pollination.
“All varieties of haskap need a pollinator type of berry bush in order to have optimum berry growth,” she explained. “You need one pollinator plant for every five haskap plants. Bees and other insects are also key to good pollination.”
Burns Lake resident Doug Price started growing haskap in 2016 after spending 16 years trying to find the ideal crop to grow on his family farm, called Evans Creek Haskap Berry Orchard.
“I wanted to find an industry that would work on a farm in this climate,” he told Lakes District News.
Price believes the super berry could be one of the ways to diversify the Burns Lake economy. The local economy has been heavily dependent on the forest products industry, which has been facing a number of challenges – including impending reductions in annual allowable cut and duties imposed by the United States.
Price and his family started with 1000 plants in the fall of 2016 and expanded production to an additional 600 plants in the spring of 2017. They plan to add 300 plants this spring.
Although the haskap takes three years to reach peak, Price said he hopes to start selling some of his produce this year.
“The plants that I planted last summer were two years old, so they should be done this year.”
He hasn’t yet determined who will purchase his produce, but said he has a couple of northern B.C. wineries in mind.
Haskap berries are currently sold out of the field for about $7-$11 a pound. An acre of supper berries could generate over $70,000 a year.
Price has recently become a member of the B.C. Haskap Association, which assists producers with processing and marketing opportunities.
Apart from presenting benefits to producers, the super berry is also considered a healthier option for consumers, given that haskap berries are rich in antioxidants.