Raking in on a good investment

Nadine Armstrong/Hants
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With a reputation as one of natures 'supper foods,' demand for wild blueberries in on the rise and one local grower plans to reap the benefits. For nearly three decades Rainbow Farms Ltd. of Upper Rawdon has cultivated, processed and exported the nutrient rich berry and now the province plans to invest in that harvest.

Under the Industrial Expansion fund, the province will provide a $1.5 million loan guarantee to enable the business to maintain and expand its operations despite hard economic times. Owner Barb Hogell says the investment will help the family farm stay the course. “The economy is slow worldwide, it's been a tough year for everyone.” Shipping costs have also increased making transport of the berry more expensive for buyers, she said. Seventy per cent of their product is exported outside of Canada.

Rainbow Farms exports the berries to processing plants around the globe; however, fewer companies, especially those south of the boarder can obtain credit to purchase large lots, she notes. “The market is not as strong as is has been in past years, but it is starting to pick up again and this will help to keep our company viable and reach new markets.”

This year the company plans to develop an additional 1800 acres of blueberry fields in Riverside, Hants County. With demand for wild blueberries increasing in the United Kingdom and Japan, in particular, the province expects to promote the homegrown product on an international level. “The wild blueberry industry is experiencing dramatic growth and Rainbow Farms is actively seeking new markets for it's products,” said Agriculture Minister, Mark Parent. He adds an investment in wild blueberry farms will complement Select Nova Scotia and Taste of Nova Scotia initiatives by supporting the variety and quality of food that the province has to offer domestic and international markets. “Supporting this homegrown, family-owned business is vital.”

Rainbow Farms has developed more than 3000 acres of blueberry fields throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine; and also purchases blueberries from other growers in Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Their blueberry processing facility has the capacity to freeze over 25,000 pounds per hour and a cold storage facilities can hold up to 15 million pounds of product.

With over 85 employees and a $1 million annual payroll, Minister of Economic and Rural Development, Murry Scott, says the company is not only an important employer for Hants county, but it's business creates significant spin offs for the local community and for producers across the province. “We are pleased to support this successful company that makes a significant contribution to the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia.”

Rainbow Farms was awarded the prestigious Canada export award in 1999 and the Nova Scotia export award in 1998. It is also recognized as a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) model by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)

The company was founded by Hogells father, Ronald Weatherhead in 1970 with the purchase of a single field. “We've put our heart and soul and family into this company,” she said. It's a legacy she hopes will continue for generations to come.

Organizations: Rainbow Farms, Select Nova Scotia, Rural Development Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Canada, Hants County New Brunswick Maine Riverside United Kingdom Japan Prince Edward Island

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