Cold weather, rain lead to later berry harvest in B.C.

B.C. small farms are booming, despite fickle buyers and extreme weather

After the early harvests in 2015 and 2016, berries in B.C.'s Lower Mainland are back to their regular harvest times after a long, cold winter.

Strawberries are expected in June, with raspberries and blueberries to follow later in the summer.

Warmer temperatures in 2015 and 2016 — combined with mild winters — led to record-breaking early harvests, with strawberries appearing in the first two weeks of May.

This year, however, the Lower Mainland suffered through one of the longest cold snaps in 30 years, with more snow in the region than usual.

It was then followed by lots of rain in spring — including a paltry 70.5 total hours of sunshine for the entire month of March.

"We're reverting back to our regular wet spring," explained Alf Krause, owner of Krause Berry Farm in Langley.

"It's catching us a little off guard because the last two or three years it's been so early, we thought we were in California."

Rhonda Driediger of Driediger Farms Ltd. says the rain is worse than the cold weather.

"When we had all that snow and cold weather, we were actually quite happy about it. When we get cold winters, it knocks back the pest and disease pressure," she said.

"Then it started raining and it hasn't stopped raining."

Krause said the rain could take the most vulnerable plants, especially if it continues.

"When the field is sitting in water, flooded, the plants can't breathe, which plants need to do the same as us," he explained.

But it's still to early to know whether yields — and consumer prices — will be affected.

"You don't know until harvest to know what you've got. It's definitely a later season than we've gotten accustomed to," Krause said.

B.C.'s commercial berry industry includes blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries.

With files from The Early Edition and Brenna Rose