Wide Bay strawberry farmers call it a day
The future plans for coast couple
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
“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.”
END OF A SEASON: Boswell’s Strawberries owners Keith and Shelly Boswell are shutting up shop at the end of the 2018 season.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS: The Boswells have been growing strawberries in Hervey Bay for the last 30 years.