Berry good season ahead
WHILE the rest of Australia is gearing up for what’s predicted to be the coldest winter on record, Queensland strawberry growers are welcoming the cool change, with promising signs of a bumper crop season this year.
Consumers can also rejoice as the large yield usually leads to affordable strawberries for everyone.
Strawberry runners, planted in early March, usually take eight weeks to grow and start producing fruit but conditions have been perfect this year – warm, sunny days and cool, dry nights. The result is Queensland strawberries are predicted to produce high-quality fruit two to three weeks earlier than usual.
The fruit is normally handpicked two times a week, but perfect growing conditions produce bumper crops that need three pickings a week just to keep up.
Ashbern Farms produces strawberries all year round and the business is co-owned and run by Jon and Bernadine Carmichael, and former employee Brendon Hoyle and his wife Ashleigh.
The Carmichaels have been growing strawberries in southeast Queensland for more than 40 years and have experience in building a successful strawberry farm and tourist attraction called Strawberry Fields.
After branching out from the family farm, Mr Carmichael now jointly owns and operates two farm sites – Stanthorpe Farm, which opens October– May, where tourists and locals experience picking their own strawberries during the summer, and Glass House Mountains Farm, which focuses on winter production of organic and commercial strawberries.
“With bumper crops coming in this year, there’ll be plenty of strawberries to go around,” he said.
“It’ll hopefully produce stable prices so more people get the chance to enjoy our Queensland strawberries.”
Queensland strawberries can be divided into two categories – soft skinned types such as Aussie Gem and Ruby Gem, which need to be picked early in the morning when it is still cold, and firmskinned varieties, such as Festival, Splendour, and the new Red Rhapsody, which is on the market after four years in development by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Strawberry plants thrive in Queensland winter, which usually has cool, dry nights and plenty of sunshine with little rainfall during the day. Cool nights produce sweeter fruit and farmers rely on the native bee populations to boost the pollination process during the warm, dry daytime.
SUCCULENT STRAWBERRIES: Jon and Bernadine Carmichael with Ashleigh and Brendon Hoyle, from Ashbern Farms.