Category: Fall 2015


outdoors

Articles first appeared in fall 2015 edition of NW Ontario Outdoors Magazine - Free download >>

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Are we missing the boat with NW Ontario’s Blueberries?

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Missing the boat?
Locally here in Nipigon during the blueberry harvest people were up in arms about an aerial spraying that was going to wipe out our blueberry crops…. This got me thinking. When I start thinking nothing good can happen.
I did some technical digging and learned how to utilize the forest management maps/system and even discussed with a local MNR GIS person about making it easier to use. This has resulted in me creating a tutorial and such for the masses, but that’s another story.
What got me thinking – which is worth more – Blueberries or Trees?
When I first arrived here in NW Ontario and witnessed the huge fields of blueberries and more importantly the price of them, I was taken aback that no one has started a commercial blueberry harvest operation here. The reason most give is that the forests are owned by the logging companies.
Some numbers based on my picking last year – all picking was done in an area approximately 2 acres in a standard cut that hasn’t been cleaned/leveled or anything. I picked just under 100 liters of blueberries and made just under a thousand dollars selling them locally for $20-$25 dollars/3 liters. From there it is easy to imagine that a single acre of blueberries (with land cleaned/properly maintained) can generate a minimum of $1000/season.
How long does it take for a tree to grow? I’m told twenty or more years around here. So if that one acre of land was left / tended for blueberries it would generate $20k.
How much is one acre of treed forest worth? Through some calculations based on total forestry sales in Ontario and Hectares harvested (this is cumulative and includes more expensive hardwoods) and it works out to around $250 (in 2003) – I will even expand it to $1000 per acre. So one acre of trees produces $1000 and is only harvestable every 20 years.
Mind you levelling, cleaning and maintaining blueberry fields has upkeep costs of course, but then again so does maintaining the woodlot, planting, spraying, cutting, etc..
So is that land worth more in Blueberries or Trees? Which is truly sustainable? Which provides ongoing, stationary jobs?

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