Verger Belliveau Orchards – A Family Tradition
Robert Bourgeois gets great satisfaction from watching over the same trees that his great uncle planted almost 100 years ago.
As the owner of Verger Belliveau Orchards, he is continuing a family tradition that started generations ago.
“We did everything by hand because back then we had no forklifts. The boxes, the baskets, the barrels, everything was handled by hand,” says Bourgeois. Like his great uncle Sebastian, who also grew up working in the Orchards, Bourgeois was born and raised on the Orchard with his brother Jean-Louis and their two sisters.
Bourgeois remembers how he and his brother spent their summer days surrounded by apples - picking them, packing them, lugging them, and doing any odd job their father needed them to do.
“Back then everyone was working hard so it was not a big thing. In the summers, even when it was our birthdays, all we really did was work on the Orchard, but that’s why we are still here - we really liked it.”
Bourgeois says his childhood growing up on an orchard played a big part in leading him towards a career in agriculture. He studied Plant Science at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, graduated in 1981, and then took co-ownership of the Verger Belliveau Orchard, along with his brother. Years later, Bourgeois’ brother sold his share of the business, leaving Robert Bourgeois the sole proprietor.
Now, Bourgeois manages the Verger Belliveau orchard with the help of his wife and kids -- and he loves it. He actively participates in regional, provincial and national agricultural committees and has since become one of the original five founding members of the Really Local Harvest Co-op, a farmer’s cooperative aimed at helping local farmers market their products to their local communities.
Not only does he get to pass down the traditional work ethic he learned growing up, but he also has the opportunity to steer the family business into the 21st Century.
“For me it’s a challenge. Every year is different. You got to adapt to what’s coming and I’m having more fun than I ever did, not because I know what’s coming, but that I can predict worldwide trends,” says Bourgeois. “I’d like to be Avant-Garde and know what’s coming before its coming and I can prepare myself. That’s the part I like the most.”
Today, the Verger Belliveau Orchard is well-known throughout Atlantic Canada for their locally grown New Brunswick apples, and their locally produced specialty apple products like apple ciders, wines and of course, apple juice.
The Verger Belliveau Orchard is also a popular agri-tourism destination where families can enjoy a wide variety of summer events and activities such as exploring the orchards, tractor-drawn wagon rides, a corn maze, and seasonal U-pick and an annual Apple Blossom Festival. Visitors can also visit their store and café for a tasting of their award winning wines and a slice of their famous apple pie.
For a full listing of Verger Belliveau Orchards products, events and activities, check out: http://www.vergerbelliveauorchard.ca/