Frequently Asked Questions
What are Saskatoon berries?
The saskatoon berry (botanical name Amelanchier alnifolia) is a small sweet dark purple fruit that looks a lot like a blueberry but are in fact related to the apple family that is native to the Canadian prairies, with a range extending slightly into British Columbia and the northern US west and costal states. Saskatoon berries grow on deciduous leafy bushes (up to 15 feet tall) which have an amazing ability to survive hostile, freezing northern winters.
Saskatoon berries and the bush itself have been used by our indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The berries have been used extensively in their cuisine to make dishes such as Pemmican (a buffalo meat-based jerky). The leaves, branches, bark, and roots are also used to make a variety of medicines for the treatment of numerous aliments. The saskatoon name is reportedly an anglicization from the Cree language word misâskwatômina (Mis-sask-qua-too-mina), which translated literally means “the fruit of the tree of many branches”. The city of Saskatoon in our neighbouring province of Saskatchewan was also named after the berry, not the other way around as many people commonly think.
What do Saskatoon berries taste like?
The saskatoon berry is a naturally sweet berry that can be eaten right off the bush. They have an apple flavour to them (not surprising since they are related to the apple family) and have a distinctive slightly nutty/almond flavour which makes them particularly delicious. The skin of a ripe berry is dark purple, the flesh inside is a light purple color and contains a couple small seeds inside. The seeds are about the same size as a raspberry seed and you just eat them. The apple flavour comes from the skin and flesh and the almond flavour comes from the seeds.
Are Saskatoon berries healthy for you?
Absolutely! The saskatoon berry is naturally high in antioxidants and flavonoid compounds due to the dark skin, flesh and seeds in the berries. Saskatoon berries are actually higher in antioxidants than the blueberries. Saskatoons are also an excellent source of protein, potassium, magnesium and fiber.
What varieties of Saskatoon berry do you grow?
We grow two of the most popular varieties of Saskatoon berries: Northline and Smoky. These two were chosen primarily for their outstanding taste and suitability for fresh eating, baking and processing. The other important factor was how suitable they are for mechanical harvesting since we use a harvesting machine to pick the fruit.
Do we grow all our own Saskatoon berries?
Yes! All the saskatoon berries we sell come from our own farm. Our family members do most of the work ourselves, or we directly supervise the people who help us. We know how every berry is produced, picked, packed and delivered to you. Whether you buy them fresh in season or frozen in the off-season we stand behind every pound we sell. The same goes for all of our processed products like our jams and pies. We want you to be satisfied with our products. If you’re not happy with any of our products we will do our best to rectify the situation or give you your money back.
Are you Organic?
We operate our farm using Integrated Pest Management which is a system of crop production practices that manages pests using a combination of organic methods and other conventional practices. These practices, for example, are Cultural (in terms of crop rotation), Physical (like cultivating and hand weeding), Biological (which is releasing good insects to combat bad insects) and finally as a last resort, if we are at risk of losing a crop, Chemical (that is using limited amounts to control pests without imposing on any beneficial good insects). The CFIA randomly selects produce and tests for chemical residue. On the samples taken from our farm in the past, they have never found any detectable amounts. This is an economically and very environmentally sustainable way of managing crops. Please contact us if you have further questions. Thank you for your ongoing support!
And if we do have to use chemical treatments, we only use products that are legally allowed to be used on Saskatoon berries and we carefully follow the label requirements for application rates & methods, pre-harvest intervals, etc.
When will fresh Saskatoon berries be available?
Saskatoon berries typically begin to ripen on our farm between the third week of July and the first week of August. It always depends on the weather! A warm, sunny July will deliver an early crop, and a cold wet summer will delay it.
Check the website or our Facebook page, or call us about the second week of July for more accurate information.
How big is the u-pick orchard?
Our U-pick orchard is 10 acres in size. The total size of the orchard including our commercial harvest area is 40 acres which is about 40,000 bushes.
Do you grow any other types of fruit?
No, not at this time. We have chosen to specialize in growing Saskatoon berries exclusively.
Can we bring a picnic lunch?
Of course, and please make a day of it! We have picnic tables placed with a view of the orchard and the countryside and we welcome you and your coolers to this area. Cold drinks are available for sale at our farm as well as small snacks. Please note that alcohol and smoking of any kind is not permitted.
Do you have washrooms?
We have a (handicap/wheelchair accessible) washroom in our store. Please refrain from “taking to the bushes” as per health regulations. We also have a baby change station in place for those little ones!
Do you take debit or credit cards?
Yes we do. We are happy to accept debit, Visa, and MasterCard in addition to good old-fashioned cash.
Can we bring our pets to the farm?
Public health prohibit pets in the orchard, general areas & store.
No…we absolutely love animals, but sorry – you cannot bring pets of any kind to the farm. For the health and security of all our guests here at the farm, we ask you to please leave your pets at home – and do not leave them in the car or tied up in the hot sun unattended.
Though we are sure you’re an amazing pet owner, and that your pet is extremely well behaved, sadly, that is not always the case. Pets urinate & defecate on our berry crops, plants, in our fields & walkways. Owners leave their bags of poop around the farm and in our parking lot.
Thank you for understanding.
We respectfully request that all pets remain at home and our own pets are restricted at harvest time as well! If your pet is traveling with you, and you choose to leave your pet in your vehicle, please be prepared to leave your vehicle locked and running with the air-conditioning on. Shade is minimal on our farm. For travellers, please speak to our sales staff about an area where your dog can relieve itself. It cannot do so in the orchard due to health regulations. It is best to leave your pets at home if possible.
We noticed you have Chokecherries out in the orchard. Can we pick them?
We don’t normally pick our chokecherries as they are just a shelterbelt variety and were planted just to be used as a wind break for our saskatoon bushes. If someone wanted to pick the berries, we would need to make special arrangements to do so as we normally close the u-pick well in advance of the chokecherries being ready to pick. If this is something that you would be interested in pursuing, please drop us a line and we can discuss your requirements.
How do you harvest saskatoon berries?
Some people ask if we harvest our berries by hand. Given that we have approximately 40,000 bushes and about 18 linear miles of rows it would take a small army of people a long time to harvest by hand. So, given that our harvest season is only about 3 weeks long, it really means we have no choice but to use a machine to harvest our berries. The machine works by basically shaking the berries off the bush as it moves down the row. The machine gathers in half the row of branches and bends them into the machine where a shaking head vibrates back and forth shaking the fruit off. The berries fall onto two conveyors and then get deposited into totes at the back of the harvester. We can adjust how hard the head shakes the branches, so we try to adjust the shaking intensity so that only the ripe berries get taken off. Since Saskatoon bushes do not ripen evenly, it means we end up making two passes over each row.
How do you clean and sort the berries?
Once the berries are harvested, they are brought back to our cleaning building where they are immediately placed into cold storage. We do this to remove the field heat from the berries as quickly as possible because this helps to preserve freshness in the fruit. Once cooled, we run the berries through our cleaning line. The cleaning line is essentially four different machines hooked up to one another that do different jobs. The first machine the berries pass through is a blower/cleaner. This machine takes out small leaves/twigs/bugs/shrivelled berries and blows them into a compost container. The berries then pass through a destemmer which is designed to take off any stems from any berries. The berries then pass through our color/soft optical sorting machine. This high-tech computer controlled machine uses a color camera and 4 different lasers and compressed air to detect and remove unwanted berries from the cleaning line. (We were incidently, the first Saskatoon orchard in Western Canada to have one of these color/soft sorters). Finally, the berries fall onto to our inspection conveyor where staff perform a final visual inspection of the berries and remove anything the machinery has missed.
When is your on-farm store open?
Our on-farm store is only open when our u-pick is open for picking during our harvest starting roughly in the late July until roughly the middle August. The rest of the year it is closed as it is not heated for year-round use. Customers wanting to purchase any of products outside of the store being open can order anytime online or by phone or email and pickup at the farm by a pre-arranged appointment only, or we can arrange delivery to you.
How do I store fresh Saskatoon berries?
We strongly suggest you eat your saskatoons while they’re fresh and at their peak! They are so delicious when enjoyed with some fresh cream and a touch of sugar! Fresh saskatoons are only around for a very short time each year, so enjoy them fresh while they are in season. You can buy frozen from us anytime year-round. But if you want to store them here are some helpful tips below:
Short-term: Fresh saskatoons will last up to 7 to 10 days if kept refrigerated and dry. Do not wash the saskatoons until consumption or baking in order to prevent wilting or spoilage.
Long-term: Place them in a freezer and do not wash them before freezing. Many people freeze them on a cookie sheet first and then transfer them into a freezer container. If you insist on washing them before freezing, make sure they are dry before putting them into the freezer, otherwise you’ll end up with one great big block of frozen saskatoons instead of individual frozen berries.
I noticed that sugar is high on your ingredient list on a lot of your products. Why?
A lot of our products came from old-fashioned style recipes. We have deliberatively chosen not to add any artificial preservatives into most of our products and that’s why you’ll see that sugar is high on the list of ingredients on those labels. This means we use sugar as our preservative instead of adding a chemical preservative to our products to lower the sugar content. We believe this results in a better tasting product and we would rather consume a natural product than an artificial one if possible. All this really means is that you should enjoy our products (like all things in life) in moderation. Don’t eat the whole jar in one sitting! If you can’t have sugar then we have a No Added Sugar Saskatoon Jam and No Added Sugar Saskatoon Pie that you must try. We think they are every bit as good as the full sugar versions.
I would like to order some frozen saskatoon berries from you, is there a minimum order?
For our retail customers there is no minimum order amount. For our larger commercial and wholesale customers, there may be a nominal order amount and shipping is normally FOB our farm or our cold storage warehouse in Calgary. But contact us, and we’ll do our best to get you what you need, when you need it. We use reputable carriers who are well-experienced hauling large and small amounts of frozen produce.
Do you sell commercial volumes of Saskatoons berries?
Yes we do. We sell fresh berries (when in season) and frozen berries are available year-round. Please contact us for further information by going to our Wholesale and Commercial Inquiries page.
Do you offer wholesale pricing on your value added products?
Yes. All of our value-added products are available to qualified retail vendors at wholesale pricing. We can also supply any of our processed products in industry/trade volumes on a special order basis. Please contact us for further information by going to our Wholesale and Commercial Inquiries page.
Do you host weddings at your farm?
At this time, we unfortunately do not host weddings on our farm. There are a couple of reasons why. One is that we are just too busy during the summer months with the berry harvest and our markets. The other is that we don’t have the facilities to host a large number of guests or a reception.
Do you give tours of your farm?
Yes, we have done tours on a number of occasions in the past. We can arrange for a personalized tour of our farm and our facilities for your group providing it is for more than 15 people and that we can fit it into our schedule (especially if it is during berry harvesting time). Arrangements for group tours must be made well in advance ( minimum 2 weeks ) so we can prepare. Please use our Contact Us page to send in your request. We will try to accommodate you as best as we can.
Covid-19 Update – June 2020: Please note that for the duration of the pandemic, there will be no tours available. We appreciate your understanding.