Blueberry farmer never gets sick of eating them
HE'S GROWN blueberries for more than 20 years, but Otto Saeck never tires of eating them.
"You don't get sick of eating blueberries," he said.
Tasting the crop is an important part of Mr Saeck's regular round checking the state of the orchard, nestled in the rolling hills between Bangalow and Ballina.
"I've eaten them for breakfast this morning and I've even had some for afternoon tea," he said.
Blueberry Fields has more than 40ha of berries currently under cultivation and grows more than 10 varieties peaking at different times of the harvesting season, which runs from September to Easter.
Twenty years ago the orchard sold two thirds of its produce overseas and the rest to Sydney, yet the boom in farmers markets and the corresponding movement to buy local has transformed the equation.
These days its juicy blue crop has an avid local customer base, especially for their famous buckets sold at farmers markets in Byron Bay, Bangalow, Mullumbimby, and New Brighton, which they pick for each day.
Mr Saeck's wife, Lynette, said the buckets had a cult following, particularly in Byron Bay.
During the early season in September they can usually only find enough berries to fill about eight, which attracts a merry stink among customers wanting to get their hands on one.
"When we get to the farmers market first thing in the morning there's a queue jostling and pushing each other out of the way for the eight buckets that are there," Mrs Saeck said.
"Only at Byron," she laughed.
"We call it the bucket wars." Blueberry Fields is not certified organic, but uses traditional composting and other techniques to develop its soil instead of relying purely on chemical fertilizers.
This contrasts with many modern operations which grow berries under plastic wrap and use drip fertilizer.
"It's cheaper these days to chemically feed a plant than feed it with compost, but we use a lot of compost," Mr Saeck said.
It also employs the equivalent of 25 full-time positions, and some of the best pickers have been there for 20 years.
RECIPE: BLUEBERRY SCONES
Beat one egg with one tablespoon of honey
Add 35g melted butter and whisk to combine
Add ¾ cup buttermilk and whisk to combine
Sift two cups self-raising flour with ½ teaspoon of salt
Add 1 cup fresh blueberries and stir to combine
Gradually add egg and buttermilk mixture to flour, being careful with dough so berries are not crushed
Pat out to 2cm thickness and cut into about 11 rounds
Place on greased baking tray and bake at 210C in fan-forced oven for 15 minutes