WHILE the above average rainfall has brought joy to graziers across the state, it has wreaked havoc for many in the horticultural industry, including strawberry farmers in South East Queensland.
Mandy and Adrian Schultz, LuvaBerry Farm at Wamuran, said that the overly-wet summer months have considerably pushed back the Queensland strawberry season for the majority of growers.
Ms Schultz said that, due to the wet weather, many strawberry farmers were unable to prepare plant beds, meaning that the fruit has come in much later than usual.
At LuvaBerry they typically plant on March 17 but were delayed until April 4 this year.
"The plants arrived late, and then when they did come, we just had just grey day, after grey day, and then got hit with some more rain," Ms Schultz said.
"So in those early days, they just didn't get that level of sunshine that gives them the energy to grow and produce fruit.
"Queensland grows strawberries in winter, because of our climate where it's sunny and strawberries love cold mornings and cold nights, but warm days.
"It's just been a case really where the weather just has not been conducive to growing strawberries.
Mr Schultz, who is also the president of the Queensland Strawberry Growers' Association, said that it was a widespread issue affecting growers around the state.
"Some of the farmers that planted late, they missed most of that six-week period where we had a lot of rain and they seem to be doing okay," he said.
It wasn't just the excess rain causing issues for the strawberries, but also the cold and bleak weather, which has lead to a myriad of problems, such as damage, disease and an overall lack of fruit.
Ms Schultz said that they were producing less than half the amount of strawberries compared to this time last year, meaning they only needed half their usual number of packers during the "first flush" of fruit.
"The winter has been particularly cold and grey and it's affected all of us," she said.
"A lot of farms had problems with run of health, because of the grey weather again, so disease became an issue.
"We're a chemical free farm and it's been really challenging to keep on top of the diseases, which we'vee managed to do so far, but it's been hard.
"That's why people are paying that higher price for strawberries right now too, because there just isn't much around.
"And anything that isn't so great, we've got a war on waste, so we will process that and store it to use in any of our products, like smoothies, jams or freeze dried strawberry powder."
Agritourism has become a cornerstone of the Schultz's operation, with activities such as the "pick your own" and "farmer for a day" experience, as well as tastings, tours and the "farmgate online" initiative that allowed customers to still purchase farm-fresh fruit in a safe way during the COVID pandemic.
The July school holidays is usually a busy time for the farm, but the opening has unfortunately been delayed this year due to a lack of fruit.
"We've had lots of calls from people who want to come, but we haven't got the strawberries, and the worst thing you can do is open and not have the fruit there to pick." Ms Schultz said.
"We've pushed it back tentatively to the 17th of July, but Adrian and I won't open those fields until we know that people aren't going to come and be disappointed.
LuvaBerry participated in the annual Caboolture Festival event again this year, but due to a later and smaller crop, only opened for one morning and capped numbers at 100 guests, compared to the usual 400.
"On any given weekend last year, we would have anywhere between 300 to 500 people come through," Ms Schultz said.
"The fields are manicured, they're chemical free, there's lots of love going into them, and you're encouraged to take photos and stay for a picnic, see our range of products, and do food tasting and farm tours."
Despite the slower start, the Schultzes are looking forward to opening their farm again for guests to pick some strawberries and enjoy their range of products, including a new strawberry honey that they have created in collaboration with Hum Honey Sunshine Coast.
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