Dave and Anita Poirier have travelled the world for their work. Where ever they lived they planted what the climate called for. Now back in Pictou County enjoying a new chapter in their life they have moved on from avocados and pineapple to blueberries and a special little vineyard all their own.
Along the banks of the West River, a little 99-acre farm is breathing life and abundance once more. Dave and Anita Poirier along with their son Sam, have literally lived all over the world.
Their experience of diverse culture has gifted and shaped them, strengthened their respect, and commitment to the environment and now their home at 4 Oaks Farm in Durham.
Nearing the close of a lengthy career in the oil industry, Dave began looking for land that would be suitable for growing some grapevines. Dave is from Cape Breton and Anita’s lilt tells you right away that she’s from Newfoundland. When the property came up for sale in 2006 they pounced on it. Not only was it a beautiful slice of property but it also possessed a little microclimate that could be beneficial to his viniculture plans. Dave’s father’s family was originally from Pictou so this area held a deep connection. At the time they were living in Angola but soon moved back to Halifax, which allowed time to come to the farm in the summers. They began working hard at renovating the property and getting a lay of the land.
Dave took a grape growing course at the Nova Scotia Community College, bought a weather station and together they began collecting information, local understanding and data. Lots of data.
“Be prepared if you ask him what the weather’s like” warns Anita.
In 2010 Dave retired. Armed with knowledge, numbers and a love of growing all things, they took the leap and planted three rows of Marshal Foche, seven rows of l’Acadie, and one row of Marquette. They also planted blueberries, asparagus, rhubarb, trees and more.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Ask questions!” said Dave on his approach to his backyard vineyard. “Then, just try it.”
Soil testing also played a part in the site selection. The early time spent on the farm gave them understanding of their own micro climate. The local grape growing community supported them in times of uncertainty and they were there to help problem solve.
“We are doing this for the love of it,” said Dave, “We are able to get a few cases of wine for ourselves but production of any amount would require much more acreage. We chose these varieties because they were unique to Nova Scotia and are suited to this climate.”
“At first I was so nervous to cut anything” Anita said as we walked down the aisles of arching vines, pruning and tucking along the way. “Now, I don’t hesitate. It takes time to get comfortable with things.”
Trial and error have led them to discover what works to keep pests away from the fruit. Up on the hill huge scarecrows overlook the crops. Everything from radios, sound cannons, reflective tape and aluminium pie plates have been given a go.
Although they aren’t a certified organic operation, they are spray free. Staying clear of chemicals is important to the Poirier’s. It does pose its challenges and requires different management techniques, some of which have caused them to abandon some explorative crops altogether. They have learned to stick to woody, hardier plants like grapes and blueberries.
At the end of the day this adventurous duo have made 4 Oaks their home, continuing to work hard together and learn everyday. Farming isn’t for the faint of heart, but for Anita and Dave they have struck a balance that drives them forward, and as Dave whips up over the hill on his four wheeler to check on how the grapes are fairing today they don’t show any signs of slowing down.