Saskatoon berries not trendy among youth

 Robin and Brad Hazelwanter of Lots Berry Farm say older customers often pick for those who can no longer come to pick. | Tennessa Wild photo

Berry pickers like the Michalycias often come to relive memories of childhood, says owner of Lots Berry Farm

Wally and Darlene Michalycia have been picking berries together for nearly a decade.

The retired couple drive out to Lots Berry Farm near Saskatoon every year and pick for those in need.

“We picked 15 pails last year and shared them around with seniors,” said Darlene.

Darlene’s small stature and Wally’s worn knees don’t deter them from spending hours in the bushes.

“The old people can’t get out and get them,” Darlene said.

Brad and Robin Hazelwanter, owners of Lots Berry Farm, said they have noticed a trend out in the field.

“There’s a lot of elderly people, and they pick for other elderly people,” said Robin.

The Hazelwanters share the nostalgia and pleasure of picking with their clientele and frequently pick with them.

“Our clients are elderly, and we’re close to elderly and they come out here because it brings back memories from when they were kids and they were out doing it with their parents and family adventures and things of that nature,” Brad said.

“We have those same memories, so we’ll pick too and throw it into their buckets.”

Brad has noticed fewer pickers over the last few years.

“It’s just because the younger generation may not be as interested in saskatoons as they would be in a strawberry or raspberry,” he said.

Robin said the season for saskatoon picking is also short, which means the general public easily misses it.

The Hazelwanters recognize that saskatoons aren’t for everybody, but said they are worth trying.

Studies show the berries are rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins. Both properties are beneficial for the elderly because they aid in reducing age-associated oxidative stress and improve memory, learning and cognitive functions, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The Michalycias said seniors are happy to get the berries.

“You know older people, they know exactly what to do with them,” Darlene said. “They were making perogies and pies and we’re glad to share them around.”

Wally said they immediately receive calls requesting more orders when they start their deliveries.

Many of the seniors wouldn’t receive the berries any other way.

“If they can’t get out to pick, we pick and bring fruit to them,” said Darlene.

Wally said Lots Berry Farm is a great location for seniors to pick.

They can park their vehicles right up next to the bushes, and the rows are level, wide and clean.

“We’ll be back again,” he said.

He and Darlene had already picked a dozen pails this year and planned to continue as long as there’s demand.

Anne Kucherhan and Florence Heintz, residents at a seniors’ living complex in Saskatoon, both received berries this year from the Michalycias.

Kucherhan has received berries for more than three years, and Heintz received her first delivery this year.

“In fact, I was downtown sitting and wondering how I could get a hold of some saskatoons, and I couldn’t believe it when they stopped here and they had sask-atoons,” Heintz said.

She grew up in Dalmeny, Sask., and remembers going out to her uncle’s farm to pick with her family.

“He had bushes all around his dwelling, and every summer we’d get washtubs and (pick),” she said.

Heintz said she will enjoy receiving the berries as long as they continue to be offered.

“It is absolutely awesome because I couldn’t go and get them. I couldn’t go and pick anymore,” she said.

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