John Bragg

Nova Scotia Inductee - 2023

In 1955, John Bragg discovered his love of wild blueberries when he harvested his first crop at the age of 15. In the decades since, he has been a major contributor to building a high-tech, export-oriented, innovative industry in rural Atlantic Canada.

John built his first processing plant in 1968, establishing Oxford Frozen Foods in northern Nova Scotia. By taking on the commitment to sell and process his own crop and those of fellow growers, he became a leader in the industry, ensuring producers are paid a fair price and that market demand exists for their fruit. After many years of development, processing upgrades, and market growth nationally and internationally, Oxford Frozen Foods now represents 40-50% of the wild blueberry industry worldwide. John’s organization harvests as much as 70 million pounds a year from his own farms and processes an additional 100 million pounds from other growers. This exponential growth is thanks to John’s forward thinking and his dedication to continuous improvement and innovation.

As a true change agent, John has a commitment to improving the industry through research and innovation. For over 30 years, John has funded the Wild Blueberry Research Chair at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture. This partnership between business and academia has yielded advancements in precision agriculture, pest management, soil and plant fertility, plant health, and irrigation. His investment in research has led to a greater understanding of this crop, with pure and applied research results shared with the industry for immediate benefit.

John is known for his perseverance and ability to solve industry problems. The development of mechanical harvesters arose from a lack of hand harvesters, an excess of blueberries on the ground after harvesting prompted better harvesting techniques and equipment, and expanded production lines and factories absorbed increasing yields of fruit.

The wild blueberry industry has grown tenfold during John’s career, a testament to his dedication and contribution to the industry. One of his significant initiatives has been the development of export markets for North American-grown wild blueberries. Today, John exports about 75% of production to over 30 countries. As an originator of the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, John helped bring key stakeholders together to support overseas market development, promote the wild blueberry as a superfood, and position the crop as a premium product with strong farm gate prices.

In rural areas, John’s businesses have significant benefit, through employment, community development, and support of young people as they pursue higher education. Unique rural housing programs and student bursaries support the community of people that have been the backbone of Oxford Frozen Foods. Well regarded as a notable and generous philanthropist, John has supported myriad community-based initiatives, programs, and educational opportunities. John still works every day on one of the largest farms in the country, living in the same small community where he and his ancestors were born.

John’s awards and honours are plenty, recognizing his immutable achievements. He has received honourary degrees from eight universities and colleges in the Maritimes, was inducted into the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame, is a Canadian Business Hall of Fame Laureate, and was recognized as Outstanding Philanthropist of the year in Atlantic Canada. He was the inaugural inductee into the Wild Blueberry Association of North America Hall of Fame, was recently promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada, and will soon be inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Nominated by the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia for his profound impact on the diversification and growth of the wild blueberry industry, John Bragg is a worthy inductee into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.