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Let’s Eat: Meet the blueberry's competitor, the haskap

La BelleVie Farm in St. Charles planted its first haskap bush in 2012

Sudburians generally consider July the season of the blueberry with its festival and highway and market basket sales.

But the haskap berry is growing steam as a strong competitor.

Haskaps are native to the north and have a longer growing season.

Blue in colour, the berries are a combination of sweet and tart with a strange elongated shape.

La BelleVie Farm in St. Charles, just east of Sudbury, planted its first haskap bush in 2012.

Ten years in, they are reaping the benefits of its best crop season ever offering a pick your own berry run that is expected to run until August.

Tara Hamilton and her husband Denis Turcot run the farm.

It is Denis' family multigenerational farm, and the duo wanted to grow a perennial specialty crop that was native to the region, nutrient dense with a great potential to regenerate year after year.

The flowers are hearty and can also withstand temperatures dipping down to minus 7 degrees Celsius.

"Ten years ago when we first got together, we planted our first berry plants. Every year has been better than the last in the orchard," Hamilton says.

There are currently 10,000 plants in 10 acres of farm territory.

This year, the team is planting wildflowers between each haskap row to attract pollinators that will help deal with the pest problem.

The farm is embracing the berry by making juices, jams, ice cream, fruit leather and baked goods in their certified kitchen.

Tara says the response has been wonderful.

"To see the look on people's faces when they first try the haskap is priceless and impressive.”

The raspberry and blueberry combined taste berries are native to the north and the Boreal forest, higher in antioxidants than blueberries and the purchase price is better most years.

Hamilton and Turcot are focused on the farm, as they were both born on farms themselves, and have a strong connection to the land.

But both have other careers that keep them busy.

Tara supply teaches while Turcot runs the municipality as the Chief Administrative Officer in St. Charles.

That’s why they rely on a few seasonal employees each summer to keep the farm ticking with plans to grow.

"With increased yields year after year, we foresee workshops and demonstrations in the certified kitchen space, more value added products along with the building of a year round indoor grow facility for vegetables and self sustainability," Hamilton says.

The pick your own haskap season is in full swing from Monday to Saturday 6 p.m. until dusk with the goal of continuing that until early August.

Visitors are also offered a small market garden farm stand on site or at the Noelville Farmer's Market.

La Belle Vie Farm is located at 378 Turcot Road in St. Charles, west of the city of Greater Sudbury.

Follow them on Facebook @LaBelleVieFarm or at the website.

Anastasia Rioux is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat! is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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