Matt Moran visits one of Australia's largest strawberry farms in the beautiful Adelaide Hills and finds out more about the production process from paddock to plate.
Lucy and Hamilton Walker are the largest producers of strawberries in South Australia and the proud owners of Walker International. Their shared love for strawberries dates back to when they were young kids. They would eat punnets of strawberries every day and it was always the freshness and full flavour that stuck with them. Their aim today is to create strawberries that taste, feel, look and smell like they used to.
When Lucy and Hamilton were considering growing the Albion variety in Mylor in the Adelaide Hills they were constantly told they would go broke, because it was believed there wasn’t much productivity in the variety and that the more common varieties grown yielded significantly higher numbers. However, Lucy and Hamilton felt that the other varieties lacked flavour and they wanted their customers to come back for more.
Despite the lack of support they pursued their dream and were the first people to grow the Albion variety in the Adelaide Hills in 2005.
Their huge operation now spans across 400 acres and they have a whopping two million strawberry plants.
The sweet Albion strawberry has put South Australia on the map. It’s renowned for its fullness of colour and outstanding sweet flavour. The Albion variety was developed by the University of California. Ideal temperatures around mid-twenties to thirty degrees Celsius, plenty of water, control of disease pressure such as mite and thrips and a pretty scientific fertiliser programme are key to healthy plants and the best fruit.
Lucy and Hamilton purchase specific plants to grow their strawberries from a grower’s cooperative group. Their point of difference is that they purchase mites (can cost up to $80,000) to eat all the bad animals instead of using pesticide sprays.
At their farm in Mylor they employ 40 people in the packing shed and have a large team of workers that pick the strawberries from the paddock every second day. They produce two million punnets a season.
Their philosophy is to only focus on consumer needs and that means growing the best quality strawberries. The freshness of the strawberries plays a fundamental role in the quality / product they put on the supermarket shelves.
For more info, go to www.strawberriesaustralia.com.au