Are 'pick your own' strawberry fields really forever?

August 12, 2019

According to The Beatles song - strawberry fields are forever.

But some pick-your-own farmers have grown their last fruit, blaming a whole crop of problems.


Challenges range from birds getting to it before pickers and bad weather, not to mention cheaper produce in the supermarket.


Much-loved sites at Hendrewennol, Vale of Glamorgan and Llanvihangel Crucorney, Monmouthshire, are two of those that have not opened this year. But others are thriving - including a 160-year-old Wrexham patch, where pickers once got involved in "pitched battles" with locals.


Others have closed - but rather than through a lack of customers, some have blamed too many.


Llanvihangel Crucorney has shut after 55 years, with Claudia Lenza blaming the fact it was "a different model" to others, as she did not own the land.


"Pick-your-owns can do really well," she said. "It's a different customer now. Before it was people wanting to fill their freezers. 


"Now, it's families with young children looking for a fun day out."


Gary Rees called the closure of Brooksgrove Farm, Haverfordwest, this summer "bittersweet".


"It just got so busy, our small farm couldn't cope," he said. "We decided not to open this year and take stock. "We are talking to health and safety advisors and the council about what we can do."


The family first opened their Pembrokeshire coast farm for pick-your-own in 2013. But it soon became a victim of its own success with "unprecedented numbers" arriving and creating problems on the access route.Mr Rees said: "It used to be people stocking up with wheelbarrows or ladies making jam. "Now, it's families looking for an experience."


This is something not lost on Alan Downes of the Hawarden Estate, Deeside. The pick-your-own strawberry operation expanded to include a farm shop with a "good life experience" in 2008. Activities and events now pull in 3,000 visitors a week from far and wide. But others still rely on a small, but dedicated, band of pickers, such as Hooton's Homegrown on Anglesey.


Grower, Rosalind Hooton admitted "rain stops play" some days, adding: "People want fruit for jam, there's locals and serious pickers from the Llyn Peninsula who want to fill their freezers."


By Chris Woods for BBC News



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