Fruitful days lie ahead, say North Otago growers

Matsinger’s Berry Farm manager Hann Matsinger with some of the morning’s strawberry harvest....
Matsinger’s Berry Farm manager Hann Matsinger with some of the morning’s strawberry harvest. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH
Fruitgrowers in North Otago are looking forward to a bumper crop this season.

Matsinger’s Berry Farm owner Leanne Matsinger said the season had been going very well, and the strawberries were "massive and beautiful".

The Peebles business, about 15km inland from Oamaru towards the Waitaki Valley, had about 50,000 plants in the ground, and another 20,000 growing hydroponically. There was also 1ha of raspberries.

Far from being a burden, the wet weather had meant the fruit was big and juicy, Mrs Matsinger said.

"We have no complaints whatsoever ... all the rain and the sunshine was perfect."

Mrs Matsinger and her husband Simon took over the berry farm from his parents about 29 years ago, but when her husband died 12 years ago, she had to learn how to run the property on her own.

Her adult son Hann now managed operations, while daughter Johanna managed the packing shed and took care of social media.

As well as being sold direct from the farm, the fruit was sent to retailers from Invercargill to Christchurch, and was in stores the day after being picked, Mrs Matsinger said.

The strawberry season went from November to May, while the raspberry season began three days before Christmas and only usually ran for about three weeks.

Berry growing was a labour-intensive process.

"It takes a lot of work to get them to look like that ... but it’s quite nice to sell something that’s beautiful," she said.

Leanne Matsinger
Leanne Matsinger
Meanwhile, only a few kilometres away, in Ferry Rd, Waitaki River Growers is having a good season with its cherry crop.

The business was run by Erin and Josh Soper, who had been there four seasons, Erin’s father Kevin Malcolm said.

Mr Malcolm, an Otago regional councillor and Waitaki Event Centre Trust member, had been voluntarily manning the roadside stall in Oamaru’s North End for the couple.

Waitaki River Growers had about 1500 cherry trees, with an end-goal of between 5000 and 10,000 trees, he said.

While the weather had caused minor problems earlier this season, those were in the past.

"All our cherries are under plastic covers, so the rain doesn’t have a great effect, other than it causes humidity, and with the humidity you start getting other bugs and bits and pieces, so that’s the problem it really causes.

"Then lack of sunshine has probably been the biggest slower of it, but that’s changed now and they’re flying out the door really."

The Sopers grew mostly Lapins and Stella cherries, which were relatively traditional varieties and had a good size and flavour.

The roadside stall was running daily, dependent on weather and fruit availability.

"We can’t rush the cherries."

- By Ashley Smyth

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