Greedy pickers threaten Kiwi PYO berry tradition

A long-time berry grower believes a lack of understanding is behind the growing number of people abusing the pick-your-own system.

Increasing numbers of growers are complaining that punters sometimes eat more than they pick, leaving them out of pocket.

The Windermere Berry Farm in Whanganui was among them - forced to temporarily close its 'pick your own' service due to what it described as thefts.

A Marlborough berry grower is also struggling to get by because so many people were eating fruit before paying, while a New Plymouth berry farm has closed their pick-your-own berry patch for the season after running low on fruit.

Peter Malloy from Ye Olde Berry Farm, near Hamilton has also been affected by cases where people eat more than they pick, but remains a big supporter of the pick-your-own system.

"We generally find the pick-your-own is good for our business and our customers," he said.

"We do get people who do take it a bit far and eat the fruit rather than pick it and pay for it in the shop but in general we think it's our responsibilty to create an enviormnet where they know what to do, what's right and wrong and manage and monitior it as best as possible," said Mr Molloy

He believes the reasons people pick their own berries has changed.

"I think the generation of which saw the gathering of food, and exchanging some labour to get cheaper fruit has has passed."

"People don't preserve, they don't do the same family activities to gather and stick things in the larder because they can buy it cheaper, already processed ready to use, which wasn't the case a generation ago."

He said most people come for the experience, and there is a different dynamic.

"Being out in the countryside is something people want to do."

He hopes it also fosters an understanding of food and where it comes from.

"To understand that it doen't just come on a supermarket shelf, that there is something involved in it."

People taking more than they fair share while picking is also a problem at times for the Waikato grower, who thinks the industry could do more.

"We think it's our job to write some sort of etiquette of pick-your-own."

"We don't think its fair that they, for a small entry fee, can eat 10 times the value in fruit. We think that is pushing the extreme."