Keeping it fresh
Mutz family has found that focusing on the fresh market has been the best approach in recent years.
By Judie Steeves D
avid Mutz has been farming since he was first able to drive a tractor. In fact, tractors have always fascinated him, confirm his parents, Henry and Penny, with grins.
And, there is a variety of tractors—in all colours and sizes—on the family operation, Berry Haven Farm Ltd. in Abbotsford. But when you’re growing 80 acres of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, you need tractors.
And, it helps if you have a bachelor’s in agriculture, which David Mutz achieved in 2005 so he could join the family business.
Today Dave is the field manager for Berry Haven Farms, while his dad concentrates on marketing and mom looks after the administration.
He’s the third generation to operate this farm, which was started by his grandfather on 20 acres, as a mixed operation in the 50s and 60s, with just a few berries. Later there were more acres of strawberries and raspberries, but by the 1980s the cattle and other crops were gone, and it was all in berries.
Some of the acreage is leased, but it’s all contiguous, which makes it possible to do the packing on-farm, close to the picking, without having to truck fragile berries around the country.
Almost all their production is fresh market, and they purchase some fruit as well as using their own to ship under their label to wholesale markets—mostly in the west. The largest portion of their crop is raspberries: Malahat, Chemainus and Cascade Delight, which they harvest from mid-June to the beginning of August.
Blueberry harvest begins at the end of July, with Chandler, Elliot and Aurora to capture the later season; then
6 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2011
Third-generation berry grower Dave Mutz.
blackberry harvest begins in August after the raspberries. In recent years, Mutz says, they have downscaled the summer raspberries to spread out the harvest more. “It’s tough to do raspberries for the fresh market,” he admits.
However, they shipped 300,000 pounds of raspberries last year and in an average year, only 10 or 15 per cent of their berries go for processing. Most of the fresh fruit was shipped around B.C. and to the prairies.
That doesn’t hurt as much when the price is good—as it is sometimes—but process prices do vary considerably from year to year.
For instance, Mutz noted that the price for process blackberries is going up since they’ve become so popular for smoothies, a fruit and dairy drink that’s tops on the menu of health food fans.
In fact, just one big chain restaurant putting smoothies on the menu really makes a big difference to markets, notes Mutz.
There are only about 200 acres of commercial “thornless” blackberries grown in the valley, although waste areas abound in the thorny wild blackberry.
During the 1990s, the family shipped berries all over the U.S., but today they seldom go even as far as Eastern Canada.
Most sales are to farm markets, and to some chains like
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