On August 5, 2019, we were pleased to host the First Nations’ Tour at Bee & Thistle Orchard and Winery. The intention of the tour was to introduce First Nations to the feasibility of growing Cherry and Haskap orchards. Melissa Cote, Deputy Director, Ministry of Trade and Export Development coordinated the tour.
We were honoured to have Bee & Thistle Orchard selected as a model of a mature successful Haskap orchard. Bee & Thistle Orchard was first planted in 2013, and has expanded to 10,000 Haskap. The tour group arrived around 4 p.m. and quickly toured the new winery building. An impending active storm front was on the horizon, so we quickly drove up to the North Orchard and everyone got a good view of the orchard before the skies opened up (as they do in Saskatchewan). The following half hour was spent inside the winery discussing aspects of the running of a Haskap orchard; we also got an opportunity to see the Joanna Premium Haskap Harvester (Weremzuk, Poland).
One Arrow First Nation, Star Blanket First Nation and George Gordon First Nation also were part of the tour, but time constraints did not permit their coming to Bee & Thistle. Before coming to Bee & Thistle, the group toured Everyday Farms/Prairie Fruit Processing in Clavet, Mike Schwinghamer Cherry Orchard in Wakaw, and Haskap Central Sales in Henribourg.
We hope our tour was informative and helpful to all the participants. It was exciting to meet with the First Nations’ representatives and answer their questions. We were happy to see Dr. Bob Bors again; he is the head of the Fruit Program at the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Bors was accompanied by a PhD student, Bayar Lkhagvasuren from Mongolia, who is studying aspects of growing Haskap (including fertility requirements). We first met Dr. Bors in 2011 as we were planning our own orchards. He is an invaluable source of information and has a website dedicated to information on Haskap and other fruits that he develops and researches (notably dwarf sour cherries and Haskap among others). He was kind to present Peter with a Haskap t-shirt (second photograph). We were also pleased to meet again with Curtis Braaten of Haskap Central Sales. He was our propagator of choice, and we are sure he enjoyed seeing the fruits of our labour with his plant stock.
Thank you so much to Melissa Cote for all her hard work in organizing and planning for the day.
In attendance, from left to right:
Dave Hoffman, Hoffman & Associates, Land Manager for Ocean Man First Nation
Dr. Bob Bors, University of Saskatchewan, Head of the Fruit Program
Chief Connie Big Eagle, Ocean Man First Nation, near Stoughton, SK
Curtis Braaten, Owner Haskap Central Sales, near Henribourg, SK
Melissa Cote, Deputy Director, Indigenous Economic Development, Ministry of Trade and Export Development
Bayartulga Lkhagvasuren, PhD student of the University of Saskatchewan, and former State Secretary of Ministry of Food Agriculture and Light Industry, Mongolia
Peter MacInnis, Owner Bee & Thistle Haskap Orchard and Winery, Debden, SK
Councillor Cory Dustyhorn, Kawacatoose First Nation, near Wynyard, SK
Gloria Rediron, Prospect Development Specialist, Ministry of Trade and Export Development, was the photographer and accompanied us on the tour.
Second photo: Peter MacInnis, Bee & Thistle Haskap Orchard, with Deke