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Australia NSW strawberry grower makes 25,000 jars of jam to save fruit from waste

07:55  14 september  2021
07:55  14 september  2021 Source:   msn.com

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No-one was around to to pluck the hundreds of thousands of strawberries on Anthony Sarks's pick-your-own farm, but instead of wasting the fruit he grower decided to make 25,000 jars of jam.

Normally, the operation at Blackmans Point on the Mid North Coast would be filled with tourists picking strawberries by the bucket, but the statewide lockdown meant not even locals could pay a visit.

"The Sydney lockdown started the eve of the school holidays in July, which knocked us," he said.

"Then the regional lockdown started on the eve of our big strawberry flush, which is in August/September.

"That's normally when we get a big bunch of tourists and visitors to pick the strawberries."

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Australia's strawberry growers are appealing for people to get inventive with the fruit to help farms survive a devastating drop in sales. Lockdowns have had a dramatic impact on strawberry sales. Fruit is being heavily discounted. Growers are asking people to get inventive with cheap fruit . Prices have crashed early in the season, with lockdowns in New South Wales , Victoria and the ACT dramatically affecting sales to restaurants, cafes and consumers who tend to bypass berries in online purchases.

We often thinking of jam making as a long, arduous process that requires our full attention. The single jar of jam is just the opposite — something you can prep and put on the stovetop while you put the groceries away or make lunches for the week. Bring the jam to a boil, but once boiling, reduce the heat slightly and keep a steady simmer. This will allow you to cook the jam without scorching while you putter around the kitchen, making lunches or cleaning.

'Let's take a punt'

But this year that didn't happen and the 140,000 strawberry plants on Mr Sarks's farm were left bulging with fruit that could not be picked.

"If we didn't do something it'd be down in the back paddock," he said.

"As a farmer who puts a lot of time and effort into growing it, it'd break your heart to have to dump it.

"I know there are other strawberry growers that have had to do that because of lockdown."

Mr Sarks has always made use of his second-grade strawberries, giving them to a local artisan manufacturer to create, a now award-winning, strawberry jam.

"We normally make strawberry jam out of our seconds anyway and I just couldn't [throw the crop out]," he said.

"So I said, 'Let's take the punt, make all this jam and worry about selling it later.'"

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Video: 'Our waste is just devastating': Frustrated strawberry grower is forced to dump fruit that doesn't meet customers' demands for extra-large berries.

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Going HAM on jam

In 10 days, thousands of jars have been bottled, stickered and sealed.

"We've made about 25,000 jars of jam, which is a lot of strawberries," Mr Sarks said.

"There's going to be a lot of cheap strawberry jam around that's for sure."

While turning the strawberries into jam has saved the fruit, it has come at a cost.

"It's a double whammy for any businessman," Mr Sarks said.

"We've missed out on income during the lockdown, but the double whammy is we now have to pay to have it made into jam."

From little things …

Eric Robertson owns The Other Chef in Port Macquarie and makes about 30 different products at his factory out of the second-grade strawberries and tomatoes supplied by Mr Sarks.

"I started in my granny flat … it was just a hobby, but I made a strawberry jam in my little 12-litre pot and my wife took it to the fine food show in Sydney," Mr Roberston said.

The product won an award at the show, which grabbed the attention of local media.

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Damaged strawberries still have to picked. Strawberry growers are developing ways of using the second-grade strawberries . David Carmichael crouched near a pile of rotting fruit at Palmview on the Sunshine Coast, explaining how growers had to pay people to pick the bruised and pitted "We make jam , we package the seconds, we use the jam from the strawberries to make strawberry ice cream, we use it for decorations in the parfaits and sundaes and we use them in our strawberry muffins," Ms Edwards said. This September will mark a year since the strawberry sabotage crisis broke, when one

The South Australian Government is under fire from the state's berry industry for funding a new hydroponic strawberry farm which growers say will oversaturate an already crowded market. Berry Sensation, a sub-company of the oil and gas business Mecrus, has been awarded million through Too many strawberries , not enough demand. Ms Sherry, a grower herself, said many in the industry believed the state government hadn't properly considered the flow-on effects of introducing a new farm to the market before committing money to the project. "They're trying to dress it up, saying look at us

"Anthony saw it [in the media] he gave me a call and said, 'When are you going to make that for me?'" Mr Robertson said.

From there he started manufacturing jam regularly for Mr Sarks.

"We had to build another factory to just keep up with them," Mr Robertson said.

"As they grew, we grew."

For the good of all

Mr Roberston says he makes about 30,000 jars of different products for Mr Sarks per year.

Compare that to making 25,000 jars of jam in less than two weeks.

"We're only a small artisan manufacturer," he said.

"It's a lot of hard work, but I just love making strawberry jam."

Mr Roberston said having a food manufacturing hub in an area surrounded by producers was beneficial for everyone.

"Using local produce, whether it's second-grade fruit or not, and then that being supported and purchased by the local community, is better for the planet, better for the local economy and local employment," he said.

"And it's not being thrown away, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with this fruit."

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