A new strawberry patch of 25,000 plants has been prepared in Whakamaramara Rd.

It's the retirement project of Cambridge couple Paul and Andrea Hammington, who are building a house on 2.6 hectares of land about four and a half kilometres up the road.

Paul has grown strawberries in Cambridge for the past 35 years and had 60 staff working for him during the growing, picking, packing and gate sales seasons.

"There are not enough strawberry growers in Bay of Plenty," he said.

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Flowers already and berries should be ready in 40 days
Flowers already and berries should be ready in 40 days

"Bay people rely on growers in the Waikato and other parts of the country for their berries. It"s a bit sad."

Paul has grown strawberries all his working life.

"It's what I know and I'm excited to see how they grow here."

The strawberry patch is on top of a knoll that gets all day sun. A machine has built up the polythene covered mounds where flowers are already set on the plants for this summer.
Paul is not bothered by any suggestion of frost ruining his crop.

"I love it here. I can go fishing every other day," he says waving to his unobstructed view out to the ocean. "I leave here to go fishing in the morning and it's a bit breezy up here at 240m above sea level but I drive through frost in the valley to get to the boat ramp. I don't think frost will be a factor."

The variety the Hammingtons grow is Camarosa. They like it because experience has shown that it produces the most tonnage of berries in a season.

Strawberries can be tricky to grow, says Paul, and you can't manipulate nature. Plants will produce berries over five months from late September to early February.

"People always want strawberries around Christmas time and we hope we have plenty then but we can't guarantee we will have enough to meet the demand," said Paul.

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But he can guarantee the berries he sells at his gate will be the best tasting because they'll have been on the plant longest and the sugar level and colour will be spot on.
"Gate sales are the best [for consumers] because picking for market takes the berries earlier when the colour is still turning, so they last longer."

The Hammingtons have a resource consent to set up a pack house on their property, for sending part of their crop to markets.

All their plants come from Bruce Rapley at Athenree - "about 80 per cent of strawberry plants are propagated in the Bay of Plenty", said Paul.

Growing plants is strictly controlled, with royalties payable to the University of California, which breeds the plants.