Meet Roger and Debbie Duyvesteyn and their two children Ashley and Jacob. The owners of Albion Nurseries in Maple Ridge, BC initially visited Powell River because they’d heard how picturesque it was. Not only did they find all they’d heard was true, but they also realized the potential for enhancing their current Fraser Valley-based greenhouse operation and the unique possibilities for yet another commercial enterprise in Powell River.
“We came to the area, fell in love with it and made the decision to try to make a run of it and have a new challenge for our future,” Roger says. In December 2006, the couple purchased property from Max and Elaine Steiger. Over the next year and a half they weighed their options; then, in February 2008, they moved forward with their plans.
That process has involved strategic planning for their new business, Coast Berry Company, as well as ensuring a smooth transition in the operation of their Maple Ridge property. As Roger stated a number of times, “it’s a work in progress.”
“We are cut-flower growers in the Lower Mainland. For the past 25-years we’ve been shipping freesias to United Flower Growers. We wanted to do something different here and we thought berries would be a good thing. We have plans to expand into other things as opportunities arise,” he explains.
“Berries” for the couple include 20 acres of blueberries, 25,000 strawberry plants, four acres of raspberries and fields of blackberries and goji berries. With the 2011 expansion of 3 poly greenhouses to house strawberries untill Christmas, cucumbers, tomatoes and a pumpkin patch for the fall. True to his experience growing flowers, there is also is a huge field of freesias, started from baby corms.
Growing freesias is part of the Duyvesteyn family heri- tage but berries now take centre stage. “Our children are so excited to move because they are used to a farm environment,” Debbie says. “Their play- pens were at the end of flowerbeds. They grew up in the greenhouse.”
Like their children, Roger also knows first-hand what it means to be raised in a farm family.
“Albion Nurseries is a family-business. My dad’s from Holland and he started growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the 1960s in Maple Ridge. We switched to growing flowers in ’84,” he says.
The company already employs four or five local residents and both Debbie and Roger are bursting with entrepreneurial excitement over what lies ahead. “Our goal is to grow quality fruit for Powell River and the Sunshine Coast with future plans of processing, packaging and storing the fruit,” Roger notes. “It’s exciting to think about bringing berries to Powell River,” Debbie continues. “We are looking to building new processing plants so everything can be done on-site. We want to offer jobs and keep as much as possible close to home.”
Fuelled by a combination of business acumen and enthusiasm, the couple provides a list of possibilities they’ve considered: drying or juicing berries, grapes for a future winery, “yurts” nestled by the creek to lodge visitors who come for farm vacations, and for Debbie, a BCRPA certified fitness instructor,as well as the owner of Coast Fitness, inclusion of a fitness component to those farm vacations packages.
They both know there will be lots of hard work ahead but they also enthusiastically embrace the future.
Everyone benefits from this new business. There’s increased economic activity for the region, new students for a local school, employment for several young people, more purchasing power in the community and the prospect of even better things to come.
What has been good for the Duyvesteyns is nothing less than great for Powell River.