Berry good sea­son ahead

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News -

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

SUC­CU­LENT STRAW­BER­RIES: Jon and Ber­na­dine Carmichael with Ash­leigh and Bren­don Hoyle, from Ash­bern Farms.

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