Volunteers helping make couple's berry farm dream come true

A couple who are new to Nova Scotia are relying on the help of volunteers to make their dream of owning a haskap berry farm come true.

"I love this country," said Erika Velikoivanenko, who recently moved to Halifax from British Columbia with her family. They immigrated from Russia to Canada seven years ago. 

"A lot of volunteers came and helped us."

Velikoivanenko had ordered 6,000 Haskap berry plants, but quickly realized she would need some help beyond her husband and son to get the farm in the Falmouth area started.

Submitted by Erika

They put out a call to community members on Facebook, and soon had more than 15 volunteers from all over the province. 

Velikoivanenko said a family from Bridgewater made an hour-long drive to help out.  

Kaitlyn Swan

The berry plants are being stored in bags for now, which gives Velikoivanenko more time to prepare the soil on the land. 

Just over three thousand plants have been bagged and prepared, said Velikoivanenko. But they still have about two thousand to go. 

Lyla Tremblay lives in Falmouth. She said volunteering is a good way to get to know her new neighbour.

Kaitlyn Swan

"It's the kind of community I like to live in. If I'm in the position that I need some help, and everyone will throw in together, that's a great place to be," said Tremblay.

Traditionally, the berries — beloved in Europe — have a tart taste.

But Velikoivanenko has ordered a sweeter variant of the berry from Quebec. She said these berries will be more appealing for a North American pallet. 

"After the first time you taste it, you never forget it," she said.

Velikoivanenko said she has wanted to start a berry farm for seven years, but found land too expensive in B.C.

Up until recently, she worked as a 3D animator. She said she's happy to create something away from a screen and outside of the darkness of a studio.

"Anytime I make something in vegetation I think…. I can make something real and not just virtual reality," said Velikoivanenko.

University of Saskatchewan

She now lives in Clayton Park, but bought land in the Falmouth area. She's hoping to farm the land, build a house, and share her love of the berry with others.

But first, Velikoivanenko will be working every day to ensure her haskap berries are safe from the nearing frost. 

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