Berry crop giving growers the blues

Similkameen's only blueberry farm finds steady local markets

Helen Pashak displays some ripened blueberries at Blue Sky Farms

It’s blueberry season in the Similkameen.

Helen and Art Pashak broke new ground  -literally and figuratively – six years ago when they started Blue Sky Farms on Cory Road.

The Pashaks planted 10 of their 15 acre property in blueberries, the first time, to their knowledge, that blueberries have been grown in the Lower Similkameen. Today, they remain the only blueberry producers in the valley.

“It was Art’s idea – he did some research, and decided to give it a try,” Helen recalls. “Blueberries need acid soil, so there was a bit of preparation to be done, but to date it has proved to be a successful crop for us.”

The Pashaks sell their crop through the Penticton Farmers Market between mid July and mid August. Growing five different varieties, the crop is picked, starting in mid July, with one variety still bearing fruit in November. In addition to the Farmers Market, the crop is also sold through the Pashak’s Fas Gas outlet on the western outskirts of Keremeos.

“They’ve become very popular, just through word of mouth,” Helen said, “one customer recently bought 180 pounds.”

At three recent farmer’s markets, she had sold all of her inventory by 11 a.m. Her inventory at the most recent market consisted of 700 pounds, with all but a few pounds sold that day. Selling at the farmers market, Helen said they have developed regular customers.

 

“We’re not certified organic, but there are no sprays used on our fruit,” Helen said, noting the berries have a different texture and flavour than those grown on the coast. The crop needs to be irrigated, but other than that, present no special problems growing in the Similkameen.

“They like the dry weather,” Helen said, adding, “no one knew how well they would grow here.

 

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worked out well.”

The Pashaks still have blueberries available for sale at Fas Gas. Late season blueberries are also frozen and sold year round at the gas station – or at least as long as supplies last.

 

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