Over 10 years ago Evie and I ‘accidentally’ purchased our first haskap orchard. The plan was to buy a model woodlot to manage sustainably. We chose Nova Scotia because it was unspoilt and beautiful, and land prices offered great value for money. After viewing many dilapidated farms, we found a magnificent one, tucked in the backwaters of Lunenburg County, 280 acres of charming woodland, plus, to our pleasant surprise, 20 acres of rolling grass meadow, crying out for cultivation.
At that time, we had no idea what a haskap berry was. Our introduction came thanks to a Google search for value added crops. We were intrigued by the haskap, which instantly struck as an undiscovered treasure well known to the Ainu people of Japan, a select few academics at The University of Saskatchewan and a handful of farmers in the West of Canada. We were reliably informed the haskap berry was tasty, nutritious, hardy and well suited to long, cold Canadian winters. We had to give it a try and make something from those rolling meadows.
So, our first haskap orchard came into being. From the start we wanted a totally natural farm, chemical free, managed by and worked on by local people, and in harmony with the community and environment. It turned out those principles, though challenging, were eminently achievable once we found the right farm manager. Cynthia ticked all the boxes, sharing so many of our values on how a farm should be run. Cynthia, Evie and I regularly chat about the farm, and pretty much always with one voice. One of our proudest boasts…in return for feeding the wild bees of Lunenburg County year-round with abundant wild flowers, every spring the bees do us the great service of pollinating our haskap bushes.
As the business grew, the original farm was sold-on to make way for Lonetree Farm. 20 acres have turned into 80 acres of rolling orchards. Our pioneering principles of growing haskap berries naturally are characterized by hand weeding, sophisticated irrigation systems bringing organic soil nutrients to the plant root systems, seaweed based fertigation and prodigious carpets of white clover and wild flower highways, hand sewn between the manicured rows of haskap bushes.
It’s one thing to grow haskap berries that nobody has ever heard of…it’s quite another to actually sell them. Haskap berries are delicious fresh, but have limited shelf life once harvested. We resolved to only sell value added products. Initial efforts capitalized on the haskap’s great taste and colour. Juice, jam, chutney, jalapeno relish, ice cream, and even wine and gin were very early product lines. These gourmet grocery products were indeed popular - even award-winning. Others still sell them to this day, but for Haskapa they fell short in one crucial respect…they did not capture enough of the outstanding superfood nutritional properties of the extraordinary haskap berry.
We discovered that to deliver berry health from a remote Nova Scotian orchard environment to a distant kitchen table can really only be achieved through freezing, first on the field when the berry is freshly harvested, and later in a freeze-drying plant where state of the art vacuum chambers ensure that the haskap berry’s natural goodness is captured in a shelf life stable state, to be sold in consumer friendly pouches.
We searched but we found no other product format that can get anywhere close to the nutritional delivery that freeze dried powder can generate. That is why, as a superfood company, Haskapa’s signature product is 100% berry freeze dried powder. Evie and I totally believe that the haskap berry – with a colossal three times the antioxidants of a blueberry and four times the anthocyanins, plus it’s a Vitamin C high food - is so special that to serve it in any other format would be a waste of a precious resource.
We remain amazed by the fact that just one pouch of Haskapa is equivalent to 800 haskap berries, and that one small teaspoon of this superfood powder is enough for a potent daily serving, equivalent to a handful of berries.
When we purchased that first woodland, growing haskap berries was a very small part of our sustainable forestry plan. Gradually the berry grew in importance and now Evie and I work passionately to research the superfood powers of the haskap berry and promote its consumption in healthy formats. There remains so much to do, but it’s a journey of discovery we both love and want to share. Please join us by trying a pouch of Haskapa freeze dried haskap berry powder, made from only 100% natural haskap berries grown with passion and pride, to hopefully make our tiny contribution to the wellbeing of our precious planet.