Nature’s Candy Provides A Sweet Treat
Norfolk County is rich in agriculture with so many fresh fruits and vegetables to offer. Every year more and more people are discovering our local treasures and taking full advantage of all we have to offer. One of these treasures is Depner’s Pick Your Own Blueberries.
Prior to becoming a blueberry patch the land was used by the University of Guelph to research appropriate crops for the area. When Claude Gates made his way here, from New Jersey, he purchased the land and, being a man ahead of his time, Gates knew that blueberries would be an appropriate crop for the land. The water table is very high with lots of water and the soil has a low PH – both conditions conducive to the growth of healthy and flourishing blueberry bushes. The first plantings by Gates were in the late 1950’s
In 1985 John and Bernice Depner purchased the farm from Gates and remained the owners until 20l0 when their daughter Jane and her husband Soren Coulson took over the property.
Together, with the help of their three children – Zach, Lauren and Megan- they have operated the 2 plus acre farm. All three children work the patch, cut grass, prune, work the booth…whatever needs to be done. Coulson explained “There’s lots of work here for me. We bought it to run it as a hobby. My wife and I both work full-time shift hours”. Needless to say, the hobby does take up a lot of their off work time during the five to six weeks that the berries are in season and leading up to it. During the two busiest weeks Coulson will use some of his holidays to work more in the patch.
“There’s lots of pruning in the spring and I always wonder ‘Did I cut too much’? but they’re pretty resilient. You cut lots down but they grow back. It’s called rejuvenation when you cut them right back to the base. It takes two to three years after the pruning to produce berries. Every year there are newer shoots.”
There are four types of blueberries in their patch. They have Berkeley, Coville, Weymuth and Jersey with Jersey making up the majority of their crop. They are a strictly ‘pick-your-own’ patch and have many locals who often come every couple of days and just pick 1 or 2 litres at a time. There are also many that come from places like Kitchener, Cambridge, Brantford, Hamilton and Stoney Creek. “We have some that even come all the way from Toronto. We’ve seen so many new customers lately” adds Coulson. He attributes this to his children. “The kids have really helped with advertising on social media like Facebook and Instagram and that’s helped bring them in from the city”.
A trip to Depner’s Blueberries can also make for a relaxing, enjoyable outing. Set back in from the road and surrounded by trees it is not unusual to see deer or wild turkeys while picking or enjoying a picnic lunch at one of the picnic tables. There’s no rush to leave.
Blueberries, Jane explained, are considered the ‘super fruit’ and are very high in antioxidants. They are often called ‘Nature’s Candy’ and just half a cup every morning gives you all (antioxidants) you need for a whole year.
Visitors to their patch are free to walk around and find the variety that they like. They invite them to try each type and pick their favorites. Jane explained “The small ones are tart and their flesh is firmer. The large ones are sweeter. Some are better for baking.” They will supply you with containers or you can bring your own as the berries are sold by weight.
The season runs from mid July to late August or early September depending on growing conditions and Mother Nature. “A couple of years ago we had a late frost and it was a very short season that year” adds Soren. Be sure to visit them for the 2022 season. They are located at 1151 McDowell Rd. East, Simcoe and during the blueberry season they are open
Monday to Thursday from 8 am to 8 pm and Friday, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 6 pm. Head out to the patch in the 2022 season for your pick your own experience or, if you prefer, you can purchase them at their stand.