12 January 2024

Wet weather spoiling berry picking fun this South Coast summer

| James Day
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A dog lays on the grass, with a parked tractor and berry groves behind it.

While the Clyde River Berry Farm is closed for picking this season, it does have two ice cream vans operating along the coast throughout summer. Photo: Clyde River Berry Farm.

Due to downpours and the return of native birds over the Christmas break, Clyde River Berry Farm (CRBF) has decided to close for the 2023/24 season.

On New Year’s Day the Mogood farm announced on its Facebook page that due to the lack of crop, it would remain shut until December and just have two ice cream vans selling produce in Ulladulla and Nelligen.

“Situated in the middle of the forest it’s impossible to be viable without exclusion netting and our contractors weren’t able to complete this on time,” the statement explained with regards to how the birds took this season’s berries.

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A representative of Southlands Fruit and Vegetables in Moruya said they hadn’t heard from CRBF this year, and that high humidity and rain had also knocked out a few local farms.

“Locally it will take a while to recover; sales will be severely hit. It’s a serious situation for farmers, especially those who have this as their sole income source.”

Attendant standing in an ice cream van.

For each day of summer, Clyde River Berry Farm has one ice cream van operating at 240 Princes Highway in Ulladulla from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, and another outside the Steampacket Hotel in Nelligen from noon to 7 pm, except Saturdays when it’s 6:30 to 7 pm. Photo: Clyde River Berry Farm.

While the conditions have been dire for some, John McGrath of Higgins Creek Farm said they had made it through.

He expects they’ll have strong results for the last two months of this summer harvest, with their hybrid business model of commercial sales and pick your own berry experiences.

A series of berry groves under a large overhanging net.

Higgins Creek Farm is open all of January from 10 am to 2 pm for fruit picking. You can also buy its fruit at IGAs in the Batemans Bay area or SAGE markets at Moruya on Tuesdays. Photo: Higgins Creek Farm.

“We’ve had a bumper season this year,” said Mr McGrath. “A very dry winter that we weren’t sure how it was going to affect us.

“Because of that we needed more water, so we just continued to mulch the soil very heavily in trying to protect it and maintain the moisture.

“And for the first time we also irrigated it over, such that when the fruiting season came in spring the plants were in a good position to get going.”

McGrath’s farm was affected by the November rain, along with the return of native birds and fruit bats due to the post-fire regeneration of forest ecosystems. But he says their irrigation and “fairly sensitive exclusion netting” is what made the difference compared with farms who didn’t have those in place last year.

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