The cupboards are bare and the freezers are empty on the farm that is home to Rhodes Raspberries.
But that’s a good thing from a business perspective.
“We have no berries left at all. With the circumstance of this year, I think more people wanted to get out … and we had more people visit our farm this summer and they cleaned us out,” said Peter Rhodes, who owns and operates Rhodes Raspberries, located on the outskirts of Saskatoon.
Believed to be the biggest producer of raspberries and black currants in Saskatchewan, Rhodes hosts at his farm customers from as far away as Edmonton, Regina and Swift Current. Residents of Hutterite colonies and First Nations reserves travel four to six hours to pick the fruit at Rhodes Raspberries.
The variety of fruit available is unique. Rhodes estimates he has 15 varieties of raspberries and about a half dozen varieties of currants on his 30-acre plot.
One of his most loyal customers is Lucky Bastard Distillers. The Saskatoon-based distillery opened for business in 2012, the same year they approached Rhodes and wanted to use his fruit - especially the black currants, in their products.
“Being a local outfit is probably why Lucky Bastard approached us,” Rhodes said. “They’ve been a good customer over the years. It’s always nice to supply business … we’re practically neighbours.”
Rhodes said he supplies fruit to a few other distilleries and brewers in the province, in addition to several local families for their wine-making endeavours.
Growing fruit has been a profitable business for Rhodes, who emigrated to Saskatchewan from Lincolnshire, England when he was much younger. He is a homeowner in Saskatoon but purchased a farm outside the city where he spends the bulk of the summer months.
His farm was “nothing but rough grass” at the start, but over the years has flourished with the growth of tens of thousands of berry bushes.
The majority of Rhodes Raspberries is U-pick, which draws a lot of customers. Rhodes does much of the work himself, but hires a handful of seasonal staff during the busy summer months.
Rhodes Raspberries also has an online presence (rhodesraspberries.ca), where it can offer its products any time of year.
Frozen products available are yellow, black and red raspberries, black currants, saskatoon berries and sea buckthorn berries.
Other products for purchase include black currant tea, raspberry leaf tea, black currant jam, raspberry jam, black currant sorbet and raspberry gelato.
Fresh fruit is available July through September and includes yellow, black and red raspberries, black currants, saskatoon berries and sea buckthorn berries.
Written by Martin Charlton Communications