Strawberries may be harder to come by on supermarket shelves this year due to an expected shortage of pickers, so a Waikato berry farm is gearing up for a big influx of Kiwis wanting to pick their own.
Whatawhata Berry Farm near Hamilton will open for the summer this Friday, October 23.
Record crowds were expected during the strawberry picking season, which runs from now until late March, or Easter, if demand existed.
Commercial growers were concerned there wouldn't be enough overseas RSE workers, or those on Working Holiday Visas, to pick this year's crop, which left fruit to go to waste, owner Darien McFadden said.
This also created supply and demand issues for both export and domestic markets, McFadden said.
"The situation could well make strawberries more expensive and harder to come by in the supermarket this year."
"But the answer is to head straight to your local berry farm and pick them yourself."
This year's crop was of "exceptional quality" and McFadden said his commercial growing operation, Strawberry Fields, was receiving export enquiries from the US and Canada.
They specifically wanted New Zealand-grown berries "thanks to our clean, green, Covid-free status," McFadden said.
"All fruit and vegetable exporters are in the same position right now – demand is certainly there thanks to our incredible Covid response."
"Our produce has never been more sought-after. But the difficulty is ensuring we have enough workers to carry out the harvest, and then to secure air freight space which is now at a premium thanks to severely reduced airline schedules," McFadden said.
Whatawhata Berry Farm aimed to reduce its environmental impact as much as possible, McFadden said.
"Everything from our biologically-activated waste-water system to our products in-store, is done with environmental best-practice in mind."
McFadden said he was expecting more visitors this summer, due to the farm's commitment to the environment.
People always got value for money – and a terrific "Kiwiana experience" from local berry farms, McFadden said.
"For many Kiwi families it's become a tradition in the lead up to Christmas."