Wide Bay straw­berry farmers call it a day

The fu­ture plans for coast cou­ple

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - GEORDI OFFORD Geordi.offord@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

THEY’RE a much-loved cou­ple who have been pro­duc­ing straw­ber­ries for the last 29 years.

But now it’s time for Keith Boswell and wife Shelly to put down the pun­nets and en­joy their re­tire­ment.

“It wasn’t re­ally a hard de­ci­sion to make,” he said.

“My wife had some ma­jor surgery last year and I had a heart at­tack at the be­gin­ning of this year.

“So we de­cided it was time to call stumps and go see a bit of the coun­try.”

Hail­ing from a farm in South Aus­tralia, when the cou­ple moved to Her­vey Bay, Mr Boswell got a job as a brick layer, but he still had the bush in his heart.

“Our farm in South Aus­tralia was a bit of a mixed bag with pigs, cat­tle, a bit of lucerne seed and some straw­ber­ries,” he said.

“We used to live in town and we found a block just out­side Her­vey Bay and made the move.

“I picked the brains of a

mate who was grow­ing straw­ber­ries and it all started from there.”

Mr Boswell said at their peak they were grow­ing up to 60,000 straw­berry plants.

“We’re fin­ish­ing off with what we started with which is 12,000,” he said.

“We saw the straw­ber­ries as our chance to make a few shillings, so I kept work­ing as a brickie to set our­selves up.

“While I was at work my wife would be on the farm pick­ing and sell­ing them.”

Their three decades of grow­ing has seen them pro­duce all dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of this ex­cep­tional berry, but Mr Boswell had his favourites.

“There was a type called the chan­dler which is no longer avail­able,” he said.

“It filled the shed with a won­der­ful aroma and there would be a cou­ple that were a funny shape but that just added to the char­ac­ter of them.

“The ca­marosa was an­other good one and we are fin­ish­ing on the for­tuna.”

Dur­ing their 29 years of busi­ness, Mr Boswell said they ex­pe­ri­enced their fair share of chal­lenges.

“Any­thing that can crawl, fly, suck and chew loves straw­ber­ries,” he said.

“One year we lost a third of our crop to wood ducks and hares.

“Then there were the dis­eases and fungi to deal with and they all have dif­fer­ent tol­er­ance lev­els so we had to make sure we had the right fungi­cides in our arse­nal to com­bat it.”

The cou­ple also used to sup­ply the win­ter berry to big su­per­mar­ket chains such as Coles and Wool­worths, but stopped 15 years ago af­ter they couldn’t keep up with de­mand.

“I wanted a qual­ity prod­uct I could con­trol,” he said.

“Some­times when you buy straw­ber­ries from the su­per­mar­ket there are ripe ones and not so ripe ones.

“It’s not good for the prod­uct and that usu­ally hap­pens be­cause it’s harder to con­trol mil­lions of plants.”

But de­spite the low times, there were many high­lights for the cou­ple.

“When we used to send straw­ber­ries down south, I sent some to John Laws for his birth­day,” he said.

“He said ‘you’re def­i­nitely in the top eight of grow­ers in the coun­try’ and I felt a bit chuffed about that.”

With the end of the sea­son just around the cor­ner, Mr Boswell said he and his wife have al­ready made plans.

“The car­a­van is in the shed ready to go,” he said.

“We’ve got some friends in South Aus­tralia we want to go and see and I want to do a bit of fish­ing.

“We might even go for a trip on The Ghan.”

But while they are look­ing for­ward to travel, he said he won’t be slow­ing down

com­pletely.

“I’m go­ing to get a cou­ple of head of cat­tle and start grow­ing some pinto peanuts as feed,” he said.

“Enough to be a hobby farm, pay the rates and put some nice steak on the ta­ble.”

PHOTO: BLAKE ANTROBUS

END OF A SEA­SON: Boswell’s Straw­ber­ries own­ers Keith and Shelly Boswell are shut­ting up shop at the end of the 2018 sea­son.

PHOTO: FILE

STRAW­BERRY FIELDS: The Boswells have been grow­ing straw­ber­ries in Her­vey Bay for the last 30 years.

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