Huntley Berry Farm welcomes record pickers | Photos

HUNTLEY Berry Farm has gone from not expecting a strawberry crop at all a few months ago to welcoming a record number of people through the gates this picking season.

Farm manager Tony Belmonte said the farm received five thousand millimetres of rain since May, which took its toll on the strawberries, killing some of the existing plants and delaying planting from June to October.

Mr Belmonte said the rain largely stopped in October, allowing the crop to survive, and other berry varieties were not affected.

“If it continued for another month, it possibly would’ve killed more plants,” he said.

In the end, the rain only delayed picking season to correspond more neatly with the school holidays and Mr Belmonte said the season had gone well so far.

“It’s been a blessing in disguise, we’ll be late picking but it looks like we’ll get more fruit because of the moisture in the ground,” he said.

“We’ve had 7000 visitors, which is record-breaking, and they’ve picked about four tonnes of strawberries, 500 kilograms of raspberries and 1.5 tonnes of silvanberries.”

Mr Belmonte said the farm’s popularity this season had been helped along by the addition of farm animals and a cafe, social media and Sydneysiders’ love of organic food.

As well as giving people work and giving visitors a chance to pick berries, Huntley Berry Farm turns its produce into commercially available jams, preserves and fruit syrups and Mr Belmonte hoped the money raised could allow up to 20 extra people with a disability to be hired.

“We’re about to supply Woolies with premium spring water from February – that will employ anywhere between five and 10 extra people,” he said.

“Harris Farm are going to buy a lot more jams and spreads, that could employ 10 people on its own.”

Louise Davis was picking on Sunday with her grandchildren Ollie Morris-Budden, 4, and Elijah Budden, 2.

“They’re seeing how they’re grown and they’re learning you have to pick the really red ones,” she said.

“We’ve been picking strawberries and blackberries and we’re going to find some blueberries.”

Rachel Calder and her twin daughters Abby and Ava, 4, found the blueberries.

“This is the first time we’ve managed to get here before the season’s finished,” Ms Calder said.

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