In scenic Oak Bay, NB, Tuddenham Farms Ltd stands as a testament to the hard work, passion, and perseverance of its namesake family.
“I guess I was kind of born into it,” said Todd Tuddenham, who co-owns the business with his brother Troy. Their great grandfather Sanford Newell produced the family’s first crop back in 1925. Now, almost a hundred years later, the fifth generation of Tuddenham Farms continues to produce high quality blueberries as well as value-added products.
“Troy has five girls and a boy, and I have three boys,” said Tuddenham. “I guess what I’m trying to teach my kids is what my parents taught and instilled in me.”
The business has evolved across those five generations, broadening its scope and introducing a number of new products, including the delicious blueberry wine they began selling in 2000, with the assistance of the NB Cottage Winery Program.
“It was based on a recipe that my grandmother had made for years and years in her spare bedroom, and some of the guys that work for us would sneak out to buy her wine,” said Tuddenham, of the family staple that has developed many times over into one of the business’ most popular exports.
“But I remember one batch when I was a kid. We were having supper and all of a sudden you could hear these popping noises, and we went in the spare bedroom, and she had left them a bit too long. They were popping their corks, which were stuck up in the ceiling. She got quite a laugh, but the wine would get a lot better from there,” he joked.
In addition to farming wild blueberries, Tuddenham Farms’ CanadaGAP® Certification means they handle all aspects of the production process, delivering their berries and products like blueberry juice and pies from the farm in Oak Bay directly to the shelves of grocery stores across Atlantic Canada, Ontario and New England. Family pride is a huge aspect of what keeps Todd’s passion flowing into the business.
“It’s the people you see out in the world, who when your name comes out, they say ‘oh, I buy your blueberries!’ or ‘you’re the blueberry family!’ every day,” he said. “It’s pride in the products and the quality of course, and the fact that people enjoy them and recognize our name as being related to wild blueberries.”
While the global pandemic added complexity to the farm’s production processes, COVID-19 has actually seen demand in Tuddenham’s fresh baked goods increase, which Todd credits to a push towards natural, homegrown ingredients in lieu of large-scale productions and ingredients such as powdered eggs and powdered milk.
“My mother is still in control of the recipes,” Tuddenham said. “She’ll be 81 in in October. She’s making jam, and she still keeps the jam recipe close to her. She’s very reluctant to let go because some of these recipes would have been her grandfather’s.”
For Tuddenham and his team, a typical, grueling day during the season begins before sunrise, loading up the trucks with empty crates before they head off to the fields that workers will be cultivating throughout the day.
“Historically, you had an operator on the tractor, and you had a laborer on the back handling the boxes of berries,” he said. “In the last five years, the equipment has been modified so that instead of filling 20lb boxes of berries, you fill 250lb boxes. What took 25 or 30 people in the past, that same field is being picked by one man and one tractor truck. These tractors are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine.”
Back at the packing house, cleaning crews maintain stringent food safety requirements before workers arrive to pack until six or seven in the evening. From there, deliveries for the next day are packed up and prepared to be loaded first thing the following morning, when they do it all over again. Despite the long hours Tuddenham puts in, he credits the partners who keep households running during the busiest weeks of the season.
“The families have invested a lot in this process as well,” he said. “I mean, they’re basically on their own for the next six or eight weeks. I leave before my kids are up at five thirty or six, and I’m back at anywhere from seven to nine. And sometimes at nine they’re in bed. You grab a quick bite, chat for maybe five minutes, have a shower. And by that time, you’re lucky to be able to climb into bed. And, you know, and then the next day it starts all over again.”