The largest producer of asparagus in the Creston Valley says a cooler-than-normal spring has set the crop back.
“It’s been a slow start,” says Doug Sutcliffe of Sutcliffe Farms. “We had to do a soft opening for the retail outlet because we just didn’t have the pounds to open up.”
However, they are open now and Sutcliffe says the weather is “somehow” still letting them grow the vegetable.
“It grows on ground temperature, so we’re getting some growth,” he says. “The pickers aren’t happy and the wholesalers aren’t happy but we’re fighting through waiting for warm weather and nothing in the forecast.”
He says the production cycle is at least 10 days behind schedule this year. However, interest has not waned any. While he mostly sells wholesale to fruit stands and grocery stores, they also do a retail business.
“People drive from all over the Kootenays just for a feed of asparagus,” Sutcliffe says.
Sutcliffe has the largest asparagus acreage in BC to his knowledge.
He says they are very short of pickers and sorters this year, though he’s not sure why. He says they usually depend on Australians who are coming to Canada to ski, but they did not show up in their usual numbers last fall, leaving them shorthanded.
“Cool weather is actually a saving grace because if the weather was normal, we’d have trouble for sure,” he says.
There are few local pickers, he added, and those they do have are mostly from Quebec.
The asparagus crop normally runs through mid-June.