Wild blueberries grow naturally in the acid soils of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Maine. Producers clear away shrubs, bushes and grasses to allow the wild blueberry plants to grow, and then manage them carefully to obtain a crop. Wild blueberries are the most important fruit crop in Atlantic Canada.
In New Brunswick, producers harvest between 30 million to 40 million pounds annually. Although blueberries have been harvested and sold in New Brunswick for generations, the modern blueberry industry had its beginnings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
A crop is harvested every second year from wild blueberry plants. In the first year of the crop cycle, the sprout year, the plant sets fruit bud for the following crop year. In the second photo shown at right, plants in the sprout year of the cropping cycle are visible on the right hand side. These plants retain their green leaves and will continue growing into the fall. The left side of the same photo shows blueberry plants that have been recently harvested. Most of the leaves have fallen off during harvest. Later in the fall these plants will be pruned either by mechanical pruning methods or by burning. When the plants start to grow the following spring they will begin their sprout year.
An important part of blueberry production is pollination. During this time, from mid-May to mid-June depending on location, trailer loads of honey bees can be seen moving around the province as they are delivered to blueberry fields. Producers also rely on native pollinators, leafcutter bees and managed bumblebees to assist with pollination.
Between mid-August and mid-September the air is filled with energy and excitement as producers work to harvest the crop. Traveling on New Brunswick roads at this time one can very often see harvesters and other equipment being moved from field to field, and boxes and totes of blueberries being trucked to buying stations and processors.
Processing & Marketing
Over 90% of New Brunswick wild blueberries are sold to processors who clean, sort and grade the berries for freezing. Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) preserves the nutritional value and great taste of berries and makes them easy to pour from the container. Wild blueberries are sold around the world in over thirty countries. Some key markets are the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.
The balance of the wild blueberry production is processed in on-farm processing facilities. Several of these producers are identified on the BNBB Berry Map. These berries are processed into an abundance of innovative, tasty products that include vinaigrettes, chutneys, relishes, and dessert sauces as well as traditional favourites like pies, jams and jellies. There are even blueberry wines and liqueurs produced in New Brunswick.