Feature a Farm: Fraser Berry Farms

Close up blueberry plant.

Blueberries are an incredibly healthy and important food source in the global economy. As the world’s largest producer of lowbush blueberries and the third largest producer of highbush blueberries, Canada is a massive contributor to the world’s berry industry.

Lowbush blueberries, or “wild” blueberries, are native to Eastern Canada and are mostly grown in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Highbush blueberries are a cultivated species which produce larger and less perishable berries than lowbush. Canada produces over 85,000 tonnes of highbush blueberries annually with 96% of it coming from farms in beautiful, British Columbia. The long growing season and acidic soil makes the Fraser Valley region of BC an ideal environment for growing the largest, juiciest berries. When you buy highbush blueberries from the grocery store, there is a fair chance they come from bushes planted in the Fraser Valley.

Canadian flag in a blueberry field.

Abbotsford the Agricultural Capital

Within the Fraser Valley, only an hour’s drive from Vancouver, lies the city of Abbotsford. Abbotsford is called the agricultural capital of Canada because it boasts a higher production value per acre than any other jurisdiction in the country. 28% of Abbotsford’s cultivated farmland contain berry crops making the region a vital contributor to BC’s blueberry production. Abbotsford invites others to celebrate their farmers by hosting Berry Fest once a year, an event where you can buy fresh, local produce, baked goods and even enjoy berry-themed rides.

Cartons of blueberries.

Fraser Berry Farms

Jason Smith is one of around 600 blueberry farmers in British Columbia growing berries for worldwide consumption. He is a 4th generation blueberry farmer born and raised in Abbotsford, BC.

Growing up on his family’s blueberry farm, Jason got exposed to the logistics of agriculture at a young age. Fascinated with how he could improve farming using modern techniques he went on to study Agricultural Technology at the University of the Fraser Valley. After receiving his diploma, Jason started working full time on the 200-acre blueberry farm his family managed, applying his studies to real-world conditions.

Eventually Jason left the family farm to work full time for Terralink Horticulture selling fertilizers. After 13 years of building experience in the fertilizer industry, Jason felt he was ready to plant his own blueberry crop. In 1996 Jason founded Fraser Berry Farms. Benefiting from Jason’s experience working on the family farm and in the fertilizer industry, Fraser Berry Farms became such a successful operation that they increased their acreage in 2003.

Blueberry farm.
Blueberry farm.

Farming Challenges

Farming is not easy. Some of the greatest difficulties Jason faced running his farm was dealing with Mother Nature’s unpredictability and extreme fluctuations in market pricing. Some years the market prices for blueberries would plummet and Jason would have to cut costs any way he could. As with any type of farmer, Jason would constantly have to adapt to changeable weather patterns and try to prepare his crop against all conditions.

Because of all the unpredictability when it comes to berry farming, it was important for Jason to find ways to maximize yields and strengthen his crop against environmental stressors. He enjoyed experimenting with modern fertilizing and crop protection methods to improve crop health. Among other products Jason found great success using Active AgriScience fertilizers like ReROOT for building strong roots, EcoKELP to provide natural auxins and cytokinins, and PollinAID for better pollination and fertilization. Each fertilizer is custom formulated according to the delivery mechanism – granular, drip or foliar feeding system.

Hand in soil, showing Sulfur, Calcium, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, some of the most important plant nutrients.
Sulfur, Calcium, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, some of the most important plant nutrients.

Pier Management and Consulting

Due to medical issues in 2010 Jason had to take time away from the farm to return to health. Having spent time honing the perfect management strategy for his own crop, in June 2014, Jason co-founded Pier Management and Consulting Inc. with Mike Boot, another highly skilled farmer and long-time crop advisor. Today Pier Management offers a complete range of consulting services that can help a farmer start their own berry farm from scratch. This includes property acquisition and development, managing the farm, and optimizing the crop for higher yields. Having tried and tested many fertilizers on his own plants, Jason chose to mainly distribute Active AgriScience products due to the cost savings and great results.

Fertilizers for berry crops* can be found at pierconsulting.ca or field crop fertilizers at activeagriscience.com.

ReROOT jug
ReROOT rejuvenates roots. Apply during September-October and March-April.
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KMAX jug
KMAX increases fruit sizing. Include into the nutrient program soon after fruit set.
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EcoKelp jug
EcoKELP provides natural auxins and cytokinins. Include into the regular nutrient program.
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ReSET Foliar jug
ReSET Foliar rejuvenates bushes after harvesting. Apply during Sept-Oct and March-April.
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PollinAID jug
PollinAID improves pollination and fertilization. Apply at early flowering.
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*Products have similar benefits in lowbush blueberry production and we will be conducting trials in the future.

Farmer for Life

Child eating blueberries.

Jason loves it when people tell him how good his field looks and he wants to help others achieve the same results through his company at Pier Management and Consulting. Along with running a business, Jason is heavily involved in the berry farming community. He is the Vice-President of BC Berry Cultivar Development Inc. and Chair of the Crop Protection Committee for the Canadian Horticulture Council. He also works with the Finance Committee of the North American Blueberry Council and the Good Agricultural Practices Committee of the US Highbush Blueberry Council.

In 2018, Jason leased another 26 acres of blueberry field to increase his operation’s size. He currently runs Fraser Berry Farms with his wife Melissa and two daughters Sophia and Charlie.

With a rapidly growing world population, increasingly variable weather and sometimes limited land availability, farmers need to maximize their harvests more than ever while ensuring their fields stay healthy to support future crops. Active AgriScience supports these goals with cutting edge research leading to technologically advanced seed treatments, foliar nutrition, and nitrogen management solutions. Our hope is, along with farmers like Jason, that we can work together to improve agriculture practices for the betterment of all.

Jason Smith, Fraser Berry Farms

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