Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Local berries in fall, thanks to change in planting


May 31, 2010
By The Canadian Press

Topics

May
31, 2010, Vineland, Ont – Taking the eat local theme to a new level, two
brothers who grow strawberries in the Niagara region predict that consumers
could be enjoying fresh berries in season from May to Thanksgiving and beyond.



May
31, 2010, Vineland, Ont – Taking the eat local theme to a new level, two
brothers who grow strawberries in the Niagara region predict that consumers
could be enjoying fresh berries in season from May to Thanksgiving and beyond.

Traditional
strawberry season had already been extended from June to late August with the
introduction of day-neutrals several years ago.

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Day-neutral
strawberries will continue to set and ripen fruit all summer until a hard frost
puts them into dormancy. The term refers to the light sensitivity of the
variety.

But
Dan and Jeff Tigchelaar are about to revolutionize that extension by planting
day-neutral strawberry plants in the fall rather than the spring.

“This
helps to create a smaller plant, which allows for

better-quality
strawberries,” says Jeff Tigchelaar, 38. “The biggest improvement that we found
is that we can get excellent quality, we can go to market earlier and we can
fill gaps in our production cycle, which is exactly what our customers are
looking for.”

The
production system involves the use of floating row covers to promote late plant
development and flower bud initiation for an early spring harvest.

“We
are already picking full time,” says Tigchelaar, and they have been prior to
the Victoria Day weekend.

He
and his brother Dan, 43, are second-generation farmers. Their Dutch
grandparents came to Canada in 1929.

Their
father purchased the family’s first farm in Binbrook, Ont., south of Hamilton,
in 1966. It was the first pick-your-own operation in the area that featured
berries, apples and vegetables.

Then
the brothers bought acreage in Vineland, Ont., in 1995 and Tigchelaar says they
now have four farms – the others are in St. Catharines and nearby Jordan
Station. The latter still grows strawberries using the traditional matted-row
technique and remains a pick-your-own operation.

Tigchelaar
says that the move to Niagara was a dream he and Dan had because they wanted to
take advantage of the sandy soil, moderate micro-climate and to grow
day-neutral strawberries.

“I
definitely think that this is probably the future of commercial production for
strawberries,” says Dan Tigchelaar. “When you see the quality difference and
what it has enabled us to do in terms of that, we don’t feel there’s a
comparison to our old way of doing things.

“There
is still a place for the old way, and for us as well, but this improves our
growing substantially.”

The
innovation has paid off for the brothers.

In
mid-April, they won the Ontario Minister’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation at
the Premier’s Conference on Agri-Food. The award was $50,000.