12 Dec 2020

Farmers organise berry festival after annual Strawberry Fare cancelled

12:01 pm on 12 December 2020

Waimate berry growers have banded together to host a berry festival today after the annual Strawberry Fare was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Microbes have been found to make strawberries more tasty

Photo: (Clem Onojeghuo via unsplash.com)

The annual Strawberry Fare usually attracts up to 12,000 people to the South Canterbury town each year.

Instead, four berry farmers have joined forces to host A Berry Affair today at Butlers Fruit Farm on State Highway 1.

Farmer Ronald Butler first started selling strawberries in 1967 and helped establish the Strawberry Fare 30 years ago.

"My wife Jackie and I thought we should do something about the strawberry industry because every year in the second week of December there are strawberries everywhere, so we wanted to promote them."

The fare was so successful the Waimate District Council took it over and held it in the town ever since.

Butler said he was absolutely gutted when it was cancelled this year.

"It's a big event, a lot of people come and really enjoy it so when it was cancelled we were gutted.

"That's why the growers got together and thought we can put on an event to keep the industry alive," Butler said.

He said in its peak Waimate had about 50 berry growers but now only four remained.

"A lot of the strawberries come down from Auckland now - that killed the industry a bit down here."

The Butlers have transformed their farm for the event today - with stalls of berries, local produce, music and hot food.

"I feel very privileged to host it, and to put something back into the community."

Now in his 80th year Butler said eating berries kept him young.

"There is nothing more enjoyable than driving down the row on the lawnmower and eating them as you go - there is nothing nicer."

He said his daughter was keen to take over the family business next year so that he and his wife could retire to Geraldine.

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