Blueberries: ripe for picking now

Sheryl-Lynn preparing baskets of blueberries for retail sales.

By Donna McMillan

IN 1975, Chuck and Sheryl-Lynn Powell bought a 31 acre farm on Gilbert Road. It was a historic farm, part of a 400 acre land grant to Sir Isaac Gilbert that stretched from the Radical Road to the lake.
The original log cabin was burned in the War of 1812 and Sir Isaac had to hide along the banks of Hay Creek. Their heritage brick house, Chuck added, is 200 years old.
Chuck was working as a draftsman during the construction of the Texaco Refinery plant at Nanticoke and looking for a business he could pursue if the next opportunity for work was out of the area, he said.
And, “we wanted to do something with the land,” Sheryl-Lynn added. They researched what could grow on the farm with its soil conditions. They knew there were great health benefits with blueberries and “we wanted to produce something healthy,” she said.
In 1977, the couple took their first income tax refund cheque and bought 500 bushes from the late Martin Webber of St. Williams. He also became their blueberry mentor. And from there, they grew a farm market business that would see four generations helping out, including both sets of their own parents, their children and their grandchildren.
They offer U-pick, already picked berries and frozen berries ready for the freezer. At one time, “we did seven markets,” Chuck said, including Hamilton, Kitchener, Brantford, Simcoe and Hagersville.
And, of course, many will remember the giant blueberry that sat at the corner of Radical and Gilbert Roads for retail sales. Granddaughter Kaylee Nadrofsky said that iconic blueberry is going to be refurbished and resurrected next year. She has plans for it to be in Port Dover’s 2018 Canada Day Parade.
Powell’s Patch boasts seven acres of blueberries, with the main varieties being Berkeley, Bluecrop and Blueray.
“There are 25 varieties out there,” Chuck said. But, “85 per cent are those three varieties.” They also grew heritage strawberries and raspberries at one time, he said.
Hundreds and hundreds of baskets leave the Gilbert Road farm weekly. In addition to the U–Pick part of the operation, the Powells hire 12 to 15 pickers over the season to help out.
Although the picking season runs about six weeks from mid-July to Labour Day, the work in the bushes starts much earlier in the year. Sheryl-Lynn said they prune the bushes in March. In April, they fertilize and mulch. In May and June, they are cutting grass.
Many parents and grandparents like to bring children to the patch because the Powells also have a menagerie of animals, including horses, chickens, ducks, rescue kittens and cats as well as their blueberry mascot, Bear, the dog.
“It’s our little slice of heaven,” Sheryl-Lynn said, noting they also see foxes, wild turkeys, deer and many birds on the farm. There are two ponds on the farm and Hay Creek runs through it.
At one time, Sheryl-Lynn said they also made blueberry jams, syrup and honey. Even, some baking in the very early years, she added.
Chuck and Sheryl-Lynn are the parents of Kevin and Cara and have two granddaughters and two grandsons. “We are hoping to see the family tradition carry on with the next generation,” Sheryl-Lynn said. Both granddaughters have ideas for the future.

Posted: August 10, 2017

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