Saturday, January 29, 2011

Agri-nomics in the Strawberry Patch

Wild Strawberries
~ Robert Graves

Strawberries that in gardens grow
Are plump and juicy fine,
But sweeter far as wise men know
Spring from the woodland vine.

No need for bowl or silver spoon,
Sugar or spice or cream,
Has the wild berry plucked in June
Beside the trickling stream.

Pick your own strawberries at Beerenberg Farm outside Hanhdorf in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia (SA).  I've always wanted to do this, and just seeing all those rows full of perfectly formed berries made me want to skip up and down swinging a cane basket.  However, let me share a lesson learned.  Don't fill two enormous punnets if you are planning to cross the fruit fly quarantine border between SA and Victoria soon thereafter.  We gorged ourselves silly rather than toss them out. 
As I chomped, I thought how enterprising it was to charge folks for the pleasure of picking the fruit, and to sell them their bounty by the kilogram at regular prices.  What if we only wanted to pick?  Could we have charged them for our labour?  Shouldn't our punnets have been cheaper than in the supermarket since we provided five labourers and eliminated their freight and packaging costs?  Mmm... the economics of berry picking as tourism. 
Makes you realise how far we have drifted from eating food near its source when pick-your-own-fruit is a novelty.  The benefits of access to year-round produce and free trade aside, I wonder how long it takes those navel oranges from US, currently on the shelves, to get from the tree to our table?  They don't look as happy, chilled and trussed in plastic mesh bags, as those sweet, wild strawberries did.
Then I was also wondering if those berries were covered in pesticide? Oh dear...


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