Margaret and John Minney are celebrating 25 years of planting strawberry crops at the Mountain Farm U-Pick on Mountain Road in River John. Having emigrated from the United Kingdom, the couple cleared acres of their land to plant the crop. Raissa Tetanish photo

The Minney family is celebrating a special anniversary this year.

It was 25 years ago John and Margaret Minney planted their first strawberry crop at their Mountain Farm U-pick in River John. The couple immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1988 from Devonshire, United Kingdom.

“I’d been wanting to come here for 19 years,” said John. “I had visited a friend in Great Village in 1969, and felt after that I should come here.”

Three years later, a visit to Nova Scotia over the winter solidified to John Canada was the country for him.

“It became very clear that this is where God wanted us to come,” said John, admitting he and his family are Christians. “And it proved to be right.”

When the couple got married, one of the conditions was that Margaret be prepared to go anywhere in the world with John.

“I recall that conversation,” smiled Margaret.

They couple had been married for nine years before moving to Nova Scotia. They arrived July 9, 1988. They weren’t sure where they wanted to be, but knew they wanted farmland.

“We looked at various properties, but my heart just sank,” said John.

“On the first day, we looked at so many properties. We were numb,” added Margaret.

Soon after, the couple drove along Mountain Road and saw a handwritten for sale sign on the property. A couple of days later, they returned.

“In my heart, there was a real spirit this was where we wanted to look,” John said.

The house came with everything, including the food in the freezer, dog, and vehicle in the yard. The couple put down a deposit, but were still unsure.

“We were scared because we didn’t know how we would pay for it,” admitted John.

One of the conditions with the seller was he could accept a better offer if one came along. One did, however he declined the offer.

While visiting with Margaret’s family prior to moving, the couple broke the news about their soon to be new life. Things weren’t going well, so the family left and headed home.

At the same time, John’s father, whom he owned a market garden business with, had a heart attack and died, leaving John to inherit the business.

“That’s how we were able to come here. We were here the following July,” said John.

With training in commercial horticulture and strawberries being a crop John was familiar with, the family soon got to clearing the land for a u-pick.

“I was told by some locals we wouldn’t be able to do it here. It’s been a challenge. It’s still a challenge,” said John.

In 1992, the first crop was planted, and picked in 1993.

Being away from Route 6, the Minney u-pick is away from the view of the people. That first year, the put flyers out, and took berries out to a few places to sell. Unfortunately, most of the berries returned.

But soon after, word got out and now people are lined up for opening day.

Because they aren’t picking the berries themselves to sell, the couple doesn’t need to rely on employees for full days of work all season.

“It’s more hoeing, and we have one student that helps run the field. For a lot of local kids, this is their first job,” said Margaret.

“We’re actually getting the second generation of strawberry pickers now,” added John.

This year, the Minney u-pick will cover around 4.5 acres with a number of different varieties.

Their hours are changing this year, and the u-pick will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, beginning early July.

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Raissa Tetanish
Raissa Tetanish is the editor of the Tatamagouche Light. She has more than 12 years experience as a reporter, with a background in both photography and photojournalism. She can be reached at 902-305-6177, or raissatetanish@tatamagouchelight.com.