Strawberry fields forever?

PUBLISHED: 05:39 20 July 2006 | UPDATED: 09:37 24 May 2010

Cliff Besley and Diana Ruzgaite.

Cliff Besley and Diana Ruzgaite.

A RURAL tradition that has gone on for decades may become extinct as strawberry farmers in Somerset are stopping greedy people picking their own fruit. Producers in Cheddar and Draycott are stopping the custom because of rising costs and falling harvests.

A RURAL tradition that has gone on for decades may become extinct as strawberry farmers in Somerset are stopping greedy people picking their own fruit.Producers in Cheddar and Draycott are stopping the custom because of rising costs and falling harvests.They say people are eating as much as they are picking as they go along and they cannot afford to continue the custom anymore.Strawberry farmer Chris Besley has stopped people picking fruit from his fields for the first time this year.He says strawberry yields are a half of what they were last year and he has had to use the pick your own fields to sell at markets.Strawberries from his farm in Draycott Road, Cheddar are sold at 35 farmers' markets in Bristol, Bath and Taunton every month during summer.Chris said: "People love pick your own and bringing their kids to the farm, but it's been a real struggle this year."We've had to turn people away and had lots of phone calls enquiring about it."This is the first year I've had to stop it, but talking to other producers I think you'll be lucky to find a farm that does pick your own in a couple of years."It's been a really bad year and you just don't make any money on pick your own."People used to pick about 20lbs to make jams and preserves and eat about 2lbs, but now people are only picking 2lbs and eating 2lbs."Andrew Le Prevost, who runs Tanyard Farm Nurseries, supplies 100 tonnes of strawberries a year to supermarket giant ASDA.He said: "Most people now go to the supermarkets to buy strawberries and they've become the main customers."I don't think people have the time any more to pick them and when they do they eat a lot as they go."NFU Weston branch chairman Mark Amesbury said: "Strawberry picking is a huge rural tradition around Cheddar and would be sorely missed.

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