Q: Do you grow your own berries?
We’re second generation berry farmers. Stuart was born to be a berry man! His apprenticeship began at birth, supervising his parents from the strawberry rows; his mother oversaw picking and packing while his father tended to crops. Stuart’s brother and young family are continuing the farming legacy, in fact they provide My Berries with some of our finest fruit! At My Berries our focus is on finding wonderful growers to work with, drawing from our family’s wealth of knowledge to source the most scrumptious and seasonally robust varieties for freezing.
Q. So where do your berries come from?
Our family grows berries in the Moreton Bay and Granite Belt, and our ever-expanding network of Australian growers ranges from Bundaberg to Byron Bay and beyond (Tasmania even)! This means our supply is basically year-round, and protects us from pesky weather adversities hindering our entire supply. Continuously testing the produce for quality and consistency helps us to stay on top of our game.
Q. Do you import produce from overseas?
It might sound crazy but it’s actually cheaper to import! We choose to support local, so 100% of our berries are grown and packed in Australia. We can guarantee freshness and quality this way, especially by only working with farmers who adhere to our standards of minimal intervention growing.
Q. What lessons did you take from the Nanna’s Raspberries Hepatitis A outbreak of 2015?
We took a lot from that scare! It reinforced what we already knew: that Australian growers really are going above and beyond to create the highest quality & safest berries possible. We learned that the general public do value that, which was reflected by a demand for trustworthy Australian-grown produce. It helped inform our honest (literally transparent!) packaging too; showcasing our healthy, ripe and lovingly handled berries!
Q: What’s your ethos when it comes to food waste?
Waste on farms is serious business, in fact it was our desire to minimise waste that inspired My Berries! In bumper seasons it’s the norm for farmers to throw away tonnes of beautiful fresh produce when supply and demand don’t line up. For Allison, having married into a farming family, disposing of unsold stock from farmers markets following a glut in supply was simply heartbreaking. As an example, the raspberries we now fresh freeze were once fed to the cows next door! Allison’s commitment to spend hours hulling and preserving gorgeous excess strawberries really got us thinking and we haven’t looked back!
Q: Are you organic?
We are committed to working with farmers that grow as naturally as possible and avoid unnecessary use of sprays. So, while we are not certified organic we love that our growers are so passionate about the constant care they provide to their crops. Preparing soils naturally, maintaining healthy populations of good bugs and bees, and remedying fungal and pest issues as they arise is more our style.
Q: So do you use sprays?
We have vital buzzing bees and good bug populations to protect, so we wholeheartedly reject blanket spraying techniques. All of our growers strive to look after their environment and that of their neighbours (near, far, human or otherwise!), so natural pest repellant and eradication techniques are adopted where possible before resorting to sprays (which are often organic too).
Q. What are the benefits of buying frozen?
Berries are fussy little fellas that don’t last long once picked, so buying frozen is a great way to have quality Australian berries on hand at all times. Not to mention the warm fuzzies of buying Australian: supporting local farmers and reducing the carbon emissions associated with international imports.
Q. Berries are seasonal, so how do you freeze all year round?
We fresh freeze our precious produce 12 months of the year. This is thanks to our network of growers being spread over a range of geographical locations and climates. We don’t mess about, our berries are frozen within hours of picking, locking in their dense nutrition and flavour.
Q: Where can we find your products?
We supply some amazing retailers, cafes and restaurants all around the country. For your supply of Australian grown, sustainable and sweet frozen berries see our stockist page here - http://www.myberries.com.au/stockists
Q: Can you tell us a little about your growing methods?
Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are best grown in warm little spaces called Polytunnels. This helps the plants to flush quickly with fruit while protecting them from sunburn, windburn, rain damage and hungry birdies.
Bees are the unsung heroes of our family! Our raspberries and strawberries (particularly raspberries) are all pollinated by bees, and berries grown naturally require the presence of good bugs to create stress to make the plant fruit. So aside from being the cutest little bumblers outside of our little boy (Luther), it’s in our best interests to keep them healthy and happy!
We simply release good bugs to kill the bad ones. This helps nature to solve our problems for us wherever possible (thanks to the services of wonderful companies such as Bugs for Bugs!)
Sprays aren’t necessarily always harmful to the fruit or us. A good example of our preventative measures is one organic spray that is commonly utilised for managing caterpillars: an appetite suppressant that helps the ravenous creeper stop wanting to eat our raspberries.
We don’t work with growers that blanket spray, killing everything (good and bad) prior to planting. Even organic farmers are allowed to utilise this technique, but we steer clear of it. We choose farmers who react to environmental conditions instead.
We require all of our growers to maintain Freshcare certification to demonstrate an additional layer of quality management. This credible certification is another assurance that their practices are safe and sustainable for us humans and our environment.
Freshcare certification requires growers to regularly test and submit results of microbe and chemical residues. At My Berries we also undertake random testing as an added safety precaution. We always have a copy of our growers’ certification on hand to assure ourselves and our customers that our berries are healthy, produced in a way that is friendly to the environment and safe to eat.
More info about Freshcare is available on their website: https://www.freshcare.com.au
More info about Integrated Pest and Disease Management is available courtesy of the Department for Primary Industry: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/184526/summerfruit-fulla.pdf