Fruit pick­ers ‘gorge as they go’

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Marl­bor­ough fruit grow­ers say pick-your-own berries has turned into gorge-as-you-go for some cus­tomers.

Berry grower An­drew Bas­sett put up a sign re­mind­ing cus­tomers of pick­ing cour­tesy af­ter he no­ticed peo­ple tak­ing ad­van­tage of the hon­esty sys­tem.

‘‘We be­lieve in fair ex­change. The berries are pick your own, not all you can eat,’’ the sign said.

Bas­sett, who owns a bou­tique op­er­a­tion at the Pot Shed on Rau­para Rd, said he had to step in on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to stop peo­ple eat­ing too many berries as they were pick­ing them.

For Bas­sett, the berry sea­son was com­ing to an end this week. He wanted to con­tinue the ‘‘pick­ing ex­pe­ri­ence’’ for cus­tomers next sea­son so they could see first-hand how fruit was grown, but the ex­ces­sive amount of berries peo­ple ate while they picked was cost­ing him money.

‘‘We were just get­ting a bit fed up of peo­ple com­ing in think­ing they’re en­ti­tled to eat as many as they like while they’re pick­ing,’’ Bas­sett said.

‘‘When you get a fam­ily and they take one pun­net and there’s four peo­ple pick­ing and tast­ing as they go, that’s where the bal­ance shifts and it be­comes un­fair for the farmer.’’

In Novem­ber 2018, grow­ers in Whanganui were forced to tem­po­rar­ily close pick-your-own berry farms af­ter re­peated thefts.

Bas­sett said a taste as you were pick­ing was ‘‘OK’’.

‘‘So you can un­der­stand what berry to pick . . . whether it’s dark enough, sweet enough.

‘‘But when it gets out of con­trol, we have to say some­thing. There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween tast­ing and eat­ing as many as you can.’’

The only way to pre­vent theft was to stop the pick-your-own sys­tem, and sell the berries through the shop, he said.

That would mean they had to em­ploy pick­ers.

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