Berry bounty as new owner reaps reward

By Laurel Stowell

1 comment

On Monday 700kg of strawberries were picked at Westmere's Windermere Gardens - and its new owner is rapt with their quality.

"The fruit is better than we have ever had. It's the best strawberries ever," Tony Boswell said.

He bought the Whanganui property in August last year, in a mortgagee sale.

The first summer season was a tough one, because planting had been neglected and there were only second-year berries available. Staff had to ring Whanganui retailers and beg them to take the fruit.

A lot of hard work has gone into turning the situation around, Mr Boswell said.

During the autumn 120,000 new strawberry plants and 28,000 new raspberry plants went in. New varieties were chosen, which he hopes will extend the picking season until the first frosts of winter.

The raspberries were given root irrigation, which brought them on before Christmas.

Blueberries and a new and sweeter variety of blackberry were also planted.

The new planting has increased the area in crop from 30 per cent of the property to 68 per cent. Mr Boswell wants to get it to 80 per cent.

Since last season he has also got AsureQuality accreditation, and spent $300,000 on improvements.

Last year the season broke even, just. This year he's hoping to make a profit and start getting a return on his investment.

The berries are bigger and there's no need to beg retailers to sell them now.

Windermere's policy is to sell to any Whanganui business that asks for them. Anything left over goes fresh to Taranaki, Wellington or Auckland.

Some Auckland restaurants even mention Windermere strawberries on their dessert menus, he said.

He only sells to supermarkets in the Foodstuffs chain, because there is not enough product to supply Progressive supermarkets as well and Foodstuffs has been good to deal with. That means Windermere berries are at New World and Pak 'n Save, but not at Countdown.

Wholesale buyers are only sold small quantities of berries daily, so that they will get to consumers fast and in good condition. That way the fruit can be left on the plant to ripen longer and get sweeter.

While production is up, staff numbers have stayed about the same at 106. Mr Boswell said that was because automation had made picking more efficient.

Previous owner Budge Walker employed anyone who wanted a job, but people now had to provide CVs, fill in application forms, be interviewed and have a one or two-day trial before they were hired as pickers. They couldn't be legally employed unless they could pick enough to earn the minimum wage.

"Unfortunately, it does mean we have quite a lot of disappointed people. If you are slow, we have to let you go."

Mr Boswell's own daughters, both at Auckland University, may be put to work after Christmas "if they can pick at the required rate".

His biggest bugbear at the moment is birds. They can eat $50,000 worth of fruit in a season.

At the moment they are feasting. The Windermere bird scarer, which makes intermittent loud bangs, has been turned off because Wanganui District Council has had six noise complaints.

Mr Boswell would like to talk to whoever is bothered by the noise and find agreement on a way to scare off birds.

- Wanganui Chronicle

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 28 Mar 2017 12:14:35 Processing Time: 507ms