Christmas a berry busy time

By Don Farmer, don.farmer@age.co.nz


Alan and Dot Bissett are bracing for a busy weekend meeting the demands of Christmas berry shoppers.

Owners of the Wee Red Barn at Opaki are now in their fifth year growing a variety of berries, and are flat out at this time of year producing tonnes of strawberries and raspberries for Wairarapa tables.

Most fruit from the property is sold locally either through the Wee Red Barn shop or at roadside stalls in the towns of Wairarapa, but small fruits are also sold to Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton, Thames, Palmerston North and other venues.

Mr Bissett said the telephone was now ringing before 7am as people afraid they may not get berries for Christmas and New Year attempt to place orders.

"But we don't take orders. To be fair to everyone, it is first in, first served," he said.

Depending on quantity purchased, strawberries sell for about $12 a large punnet, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries for $10 a large punnet.

Those soft fruits are just the tip of the iceberg, though, as the couple produce a stack of other fruit and have branched out in all directions to make their property more productive and profitable.

Mr Bissett said there had been a resurgence in the popularity of gooseberries, a fruit that was once widely grown especially in South Wairarapa but which is rarely seen in commercial quantities in the district.

Wee Red Barn gooseberries are snapped up, with some customers getting in early for the less ripe, and more tart, berries.

Also on the Christmas/New Year menu are new potatoes - which the Bissetts grow over about 4ha - redcurrants, blackcurrants, Wee Red Barn vintage wines, free-range eggs and even weaner pigs born and raised on the property.

The business employs about 17 people during the Christmas peak.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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