Growers’ association helps members with business planning, research, production and marketing.
As with any new crop, having a group of growers and experts to share research and information and help build the industry adds to the success. In 2011, the Haskap Growers’ Association of Nova Scotia was started as interest in the new berry crop increased.
“We started planting some test plots on our farm in 2010 and by the end of the 2013 season we will have increased our acreage to over 50 acres of Haskap,” says Liam Tayler, of LaHave Forests and Secretary and Treasurer of the Haskap Growers’ Association of Nova Scotia. “We realized the importance of expanding this opportunity with other growers across Nova Scotia and established an Association to encourage and support growers, propagators and researchers to share information and technologies.”
When growers join the Association, the first thing they receive is a Market Assessment Report. “We recognize that marketing is the most important piece of bringing a new crop to market and share our comprehensive Market Assessment Report with all new members,” says Tayler. “We started the market research for the report with the customer and worked back from there to the production side. We don’t want growers to invest time and money into a product without finding a market first.”
The Association helps members with business planning and market research and with planting, open days and workshops. There are plans for technical research through partnerships with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and others. “Our goal is to create a network of like-minded growers and propagators to develop a community of growers throughout North America,” says Tayler. “As a group, we can facilitate partnerships with new technology providers and other suppliers to the benefit all of the growers. We are also looking at helping with harvest and moving to mechanical harvesters.”
One advantage of the Association is the ability to negotiate bulk pricing for some inputs, which provides significant savings for members. For example, bird netting is highly recommended and the second most expensive element after the plants themselves, so the Association has managed to arrange a bulk order, saving members significant dollars.
The Haskap Growers’ Association of Nova Scotia welcomes new members and looks forward to building this new industry together. The Association started with 32 members in the first year and in 2013 that number is expected to double. Membership is mostly from Nova Scotia, with a few from Ontario. A nominal fee of $23 buys an annual membership to the Association, which offers many benefits.
Financial Model Helps Growers With Business Planning and Assessment
“We recognize the importance of proper business planning and investment assessment for growers who decide they want to be commercial growers of Haskap,” says Tayler. “We have developed a specific financial model for Haskap, which includes both an investment summary sheet and a 6-year review and cost breakdown. This information will help growers understand the cost implications and management requirements for starting up a Haskap orchard.”
Growers can access the Acre Haskap Model excel spreadsheet downloadable from the Association website and determine the total investment required, total establishment costs, annual maintenance costs and annual harvesting and other fees. The Model is based on establishing a 10 acre Haskap orchard. Growers have been finding the Model very helpful, and Tayler notes that a couple of growers said they wished they had known about the model earlier, it would have saved them several weeks of research and time.
“Growers have different options for businesses,” explains Tayler. “For growers interested in a u-pick operation, they likely only need an acre to start. Growers considering farmer’s market options will probably need a couple of acres to start. However, for those growers who are interested in commercial production, then they should start with a minimum of 5 acres and should be able to realize 8000 lbs/acre of berries once the orchard reaches full production. Anyone thinking about starting in Haskap needs to recognize the amount of work and management required for developing an orchard. For an organic grower, weeding is a big component, as are other factors such as maintenance and harvest.”
Tayler says the Association also has plans to develop a Haskap Co-op for grower members. “A co-op will help create an industry that benefits both the growers and consumers, and provides enough money to make the industry sustainable. The co-op will be a simple organization to help growers receive and maintain a good price and help in production. Ultimately a growers co-op will help to manage the market and improve pricing and profitability.”
“The goal of the Association is to support growers through research, technology and information to help create a successful industry in Nova Scotia,” says Liam Tayler.