Bay berries thrive as harsh weather holds off
HERVEY Bay's strawberry farmers are expecting a bumper season while neighbouring regions count the cost after heavy rain damaged crops.
Strawberries on South owner Dawn Eccles-Simkins said the Fraser Coast had mostly avoided the heavy rainfall that had impacted crops on the Sunshine Coast over the past week.
She is already harvesting hundreds of berries a month earlier than expected.
On the Sunshine Coast, one farm was forced to dump eight tonnes of rain-damaged fruit last week.
The farmers still have to pay people to pick the bruised fruit only to throw it away.
One business, Strawberry Fields, has scaled back production to 500,000 plants to focus on supplying the local market and their farm store and cafe in the wake of the heavy rain.
"The premium grade would normally go to the wholesale market, but with all the rain damage we decided it was going to be too expensive to pack, they were going to get less than a punnet of strawberries per picked tray, so we just decided to sort it and do a big special in the shop to move fruit," David Carmichael from Palmview told the ABC.
But here on the Fraser Coast, Ms Eccles-Simkins said while her crop was small, it was looking promising.
Demand for the popular fruit is so high, Ms Eccles-Simkins is taking pre-orders for punnets.
"We've been really lucky, it's been a fantastic start to the season," she said.
The strawberries also have the benefit of being insecticide-free, with the small operation using bugs to fight bugs to keep the fruit in great condition.
"It's been a real passion for me to get this to the stage where we don't use any insecticides," Ms Eccles-Simkins, who has owned the farm for six years, said.
"I think it's three years now without any insecticides.
"It's a balancing act. I have little boys so I want them to be able to come down here and munch on the fruit without worrying about what they are putting in their mouths."