“It started with my grandfather, who came in 1905 to Canada,” said proprietor Brett Reidpath of his third generation business, Reidpath Wild Blueberry Co. “In the late twenties or early thirties, he ended up in Richibucto from Toronto. He had no great plan of what he was going to do but had some relations and friends that brought him out here,” Reidpath said.
Brett’s grandfather, A.M., soon began buying and selling wild blueberries. His buying station took fresh product from local producers, cleaned and packed the berries, and placed them on trains bound for Boston, Montreal, and beyond. Upon his retirement, A.M. passed the business onto his son (and Brett’s father) Gordon, who continued to run the business while farming on the side.
“I grew up in wild blueberries, raking berries, driving trucks in the summer,” Reidpath said. “We always ran a fresh line. When I was a kid, it was in my grandfather’s backyard, just to serve the local market. As soon as I got my driver’s license, it was driving off the field with my invoice book or my pick-up slip, sometimes getting home as late as two in the morning. I did my degree, went out west and did my youth out there, but could never get away from wild blueberries.”
In 2000, Brett moved back to Richibucto to take over the family business. He also began growing more aggressively, becoming the first proper blueberry farmer in the family. For him, maintaining the buying station in addition to growing has always been a must, due to the interactions he treasures and the friendships he’s cultivated over several decades.
“I came to it from a different angle than most people you talk to,” he said. “I’m not an open line station, I have a group of growers I work with. A lot of them started growing blueberries with my dad in the eighties and nineties. A lot of them are like my uncles, like I have about five or six guys that are in their late seventies and eighties and they’re like an extended family to me, right? There’s a community and I enjoy it.”
Similarly, when asked what keeps him passionate about what he does on a day-to-day basis, Reidpath is concise: “The people.” His life has been entrenched in wild blueberries, and he is adamant that we live in the greatest wild blueberry producing province that there is.
“I grew up in them, I live them, and it’s going to sound almost evangelical, but it’s talking to people about how cool wild blueberries are,” Reidpath said. “We grow such a crazy fruit that in thirty seconds I can drop ten facts that are just going to blow your mind. For instance, the wild blueberry that you buy at your local stand is the identical fruit that the people of Elsipogtog and all the indigenous communities around here ate and picked for ten thousand years. It hasn’t changed.”
“Every handful of wild blueberries should taste different,” he continued. “In an average field, there’s three to five different kinds of blueberries. And they all have different levels of sweetness, different levels of ripeness, different colors of skin. And they get picked and put in a big mix. Every handful should taste a bit different, but the consistency of that difference should be about the same.”
Naturally, wild blueberries are a staple food in the Reidpath household, though it’s a struggle to pick just one dish that best features the New Brunswick superfruit.
“A proper blueberry pie, it’s so sloppy that it’s almost unmanageable,” chuckled Reidpath. “That your grandmother or your favorite aunt made. Or your favorite uncle. It should just be blueberries and a little bit of sugar with some good pastry around it. If you cut into a blueberry pie and it kind of holds its shape like Jell-O, I’m not happy with that.”
“I had a heaping bowl of blueberry buckle last night that my mother made, and ice cream,” he continued. “And another favorite use for me is frozen wild blueberries out of your freezer for the bowl of Cheerios. Throw a third of a cup or a half a cup of frozen blueberries on with your cereal. And at the end of the bowl, you have a cup of ice-cold blueberry flavored milk. And, you know, that’s my favorite.”