19 Nov 2018

Brazen berry bandits halt self-service at farm

From Checkpoint, 5:28 pm on 19 November 2018

A Whanganui farm has pulled the plug on its pick-your-own berry service after visitors took more than $600 worth of strawberries in one day.


Photo: Julian's Berry Farm and Cafe

Windermere Berry Farm has allowed people to pick their own berries for decades but people are abusing the service.

The farm's managing director Tony Boswell said thousands of people visited the farm during summer to make use of the self-service - and it was a service they were proud to provide.

"It's not a profit-making part of the farm, it's aimed at pretty-much a break-even. We'll do that for the public but we're not prepared to just take a bath on it.

"There's nothing like a berry you've picked yourself right then and there... if we have children leaving here with a grin from ear-to-ear, that's why we're doing it."

He said people scoffing a few berries while picking was not the problem, in fact it was encouraged, but large-scale thefts were causing issues.

"We're probably only talking about a handful of people but the handful [with] the scale that they do is quite phenomenal."

In one case 15 people descended on the farm to pick the berries, carrying container after container into the back of a ute before taking off, he said.

"We caught that on our CCTV cameras which is actually what stopped the picking last year."

To try and manage the problem, the farm handed out pre-paid containers - but people continued to empty them into plastic bags stored in their cars.

Mr Boswell said he hoped the ban was only temporary.

The farm was considering deploying staff to patrol the self-service rows to keep a lid on things.