The Val Doucet blueberry field starts their operation in 1966 as an experimental project with the objective of creating jobs in the community. The main instigators of that project were the parish priest, Father Benoît Rioux; the agriculturists, M. François Blanchard and M. Armand Lavoie and contact persons in consultation with the New-Brunswick Department of Agriculture.
At the date of August 13, 1969, a lease has been signed with the New-Brunswick Department of Natural Resources for the renting of lands to be use for blueberries culture.
On May 23, 1970, some citizens from Val Doucet parish took a course from the Union des Coopérative Acadiennes to become true co-operators. The Coopérative Notre-Dame Ltée, specialize in wild blueberry field and whose members were exclusively persons from the community, started in business.
The people who signed the incorporation were the members of the first executive committee: M. Pierre O. Landry, M. Théodule Lainey, M. Raymond Kenny, M. François Thériault, M. Georges Brideau, M. Armand Godin, M. Arthur Chiasson, M. Cyrille Légère, M. Antoine Légère et M. Armand Haché. The first volunteer secretary has been M Arthur Robichaud and he occupied that chair for four years.
In 1970, at our beginning, we had received from the New-Brunswick Natural Resources 2782 acres of crop land, but with time, we were in the obligation to abandon some of it due to a lack of resources. Now we own approximately 800 acres.
For a certain period of time, our lands produced about 200 pounds of blueberries per acre. Then, in 1982, we recruited contact persons in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, volunteers as members of the executive and employees trained for the job. Experience and knowledge acquired in years made it possible for us to achieve a performance of 3 000 to 3 500 pounds per acre of crop land.
In 1971, the Coopérative Notre-Dame Ltée sold 22 000 pounds of blueberries.
In 1974, no harvest! It was the only year where all the plants were killed by the frost. Other frost periods occurred in the region, but some parts of the harvest were safe. We have to deal with unpredictable temperature and other nature elements; this is part of our job!
In June 2000, with a motivated executive committee and determined members, we elaborated a project for the construction of a new building with some offices, a meeting area which can be use as a community hall and a garage to store our machineries. Then, in October 2000, the move is done. The financing of this project came entirely from the Coopérative Notre-Dame Ltée funds.
Since 2002, we manage a buying station which gives us the opportunity to buy blueberries from other producers in the area.
We also wanted to expand our Coopérative, so we decided to have a market survey to know about fresh wild blueberries market request. This survey was conclusive: there was an existing market. Once the study was completed, we decided to construct a fresh blueberries packaging plant. In August 2005, our plant will be operating for the first time.
From our 800 acres, only 500 are actually in production and they generated 603 000 pounds of blueberries in 2004.
We also wanted to expand our Cooperative, we decided to do a market study in order to know the demand for fresh wild blueberries. This study was conclusive and showed us that the fresh market existed. Following this study, we went ahead with the construction of a fresh wild blueberry packing plant. August 2005, our factory was operational for the first year.
After three years of effort, our value-added product is 98% water. It was difficult to get a fresh, quality blueberry due to the moisture problem. We had to abandon this project.
Over the years, our land has increased in production, 1.8 million pounds in 2015. This tells us that with good management and a good job done by members of our cooperative, that together we can. And yes, after all these years, our goal has remained the same, which is to create jobs in the community.
The 2020 harvest was a really minimal year, 241,000 pounds. Winter damage, a freeze in June, followed by another in July and finally a drought. All this gave us this result. We are in a context where nature plays a big role in our harvests.
Our objectives are to continue to open up unused land and to make it profitable in order to obtain the best possible returns for our Cooperative. Our yields are now 6,500-7,000 pounds of blueberries per acre.
We have been there for many years and our goal is to stay there!