Our berry favourite farm reopens tomorrow for the season
MARGARET Ballantyne is flat out. It's well into strawberry season in Queensland and she's just days out from re-opening her much-loved Camerons Pocket berry farm.
"We're very busy here," the owner of Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm said. "The farm opens to the public on Thursday and there's lots to do".
If you're a Mackay local, there's a good chance you've heard of the little farm nestled back off a dirt track behind Calen.
Mrs Ballantyne said the majority of visitors to the farm were from the Mackay or Whitsunday regions.
"We do get the odd tourist, but the farm receives a lot of local support," she said.
"When we posted information about our opening day on Facebook it just went crazy. There were so many comments and private messages, it was hard to keep up. There's definitely a lot of local excitement about the season starting."
This year, the farm has diversified its product range to include raspberries, which has proven successful.
"The raspberries have cultivated really well in the tropics. We will have limited supplies though and while they'll be available for purchase, they won't be available to be picked by the public. They are far too delicate," Mrs Ballantyne said.
"We will have blueberries again this year, too, but a bit later in the season. I'm thinking it's going to be late July when the public will be able to come pick blueberries."
But Mrs Ballantyne says the real stars of the show are their strawberries.
"We grow the most beautiful strawberries. It's because we only pick on full colour - that's when they're full of sugar," Mrs Ballantyne said.
"It's important to choose strawberries that are ripe. Unlike other fruit, strawberries will not ripen off the plant.
"We've got staff specifically trained to help guests pick the ripest, most delicious fruit. We want to make sure customers are coming out here and taking home fruit they will really enjoy."
The farm's onsite cafe showcases its berries with item menus including house-made raspberry ice cream.
"The previous year we were very lucky because we had two French chefs that created recipes for the menu. My favourite is the French crepe, which is caramelised with butter and sugar," she said.
"Half a punnet of strawberries get boiled down to create a sweet and sticky sauce and that sauce gets folded into the crepe and finally the whole thing gets topped with ice cream," she said.
Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm will be open every day during the school holidays, weather permitting. But Mrs Ballantyne said it was best to check their Facebook page to confirm they would be open.
"If we get thousands of people over the school holidays there is a chance we could run out of strawberries. It happened this past year, so please do check before making the trek out here," she said.
Mrs Ballantyne said she wanted to remind everyone the farm was a dog-free zone.
"We love dogs here, but no dogs are allowed. A lot of people bring their dogs and unfortunately we have to turn the dogs away," she said.
Ballantyne's Farm reopens for the season on Thursday at 8am until 4pm and will be open every day over the school holidays. They are located at 36 Brodies Road, Camerons Pocket, Calen.