The time is ripe for the pick of the crop

WESTERWAY Raspberry Farms are gearing up for their fruit picking season, and like many orchards in Tasmania, they’re expecting the rains to bring in a bumper crop.

Richard Clarke, who manages the orchards in the Derwent Valley alongside his family, said he was expecting a busy season, with workers already primed for picking.

Having started their early raspberry and strawberry sales around the Salamanca and Farm Gate markets last weekend, the momentum picks up extremely quickly.

“We’re going to open the shed for the first time this week and by the second weekend of December, we will be pumping,” Mr Clark said.

The wet weather over the past few months delayed the start of the season somewhat, though moulds and fungus were kept at bay.

“You don’t get the coldest day in November in 70 years and expect an early season,” he said.
“A wet summer means more mould issues. Luckily we’ve had enough breaks in the weather to get our sprays in during the flowering period, which is the critical time for fungus and mould.”

Mr Clark said despite well-documented worker shortages, their earlier start and unique harvesting machinery means they usually have their harvest well underway before other orchards begin their harvest.

“We’re very lucky. In southern Tasmania the largest employer of seasonal workers is the cherry industry, which tends to be focused later on in the summer.

“The peak cherry labour demand is in January, our peak demand is before Christmas, so we’re doing our inductions a week before the season starts.”

Westerway Farms harvest around 90 per cent of their fruit mechanically, amounting to between 4-6 tonnes per day, while the remaining 10 per cent is hand picked for their local fresh food markets, which are sold at markets, IGA’s and their farm-gate shop.

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