At Mountain Blue packing shed site 10km outside Tabulam: Ground Prep supervisor Tim Newman with Farmer Raymond Van Der Heijde.
At Mountain Blue packing shed site 10km outside Tabulam: Ground Prep supervisor Tim Newman with Farmer Raymond Van Der Heijde. Susanna Freymark

Oprah Winfrey behind Northern Rivers blueberry boom

THE demand for blueberries can be blamed on Oprah Winfrey.

Natalie Bell, daughter of Ridley Bell and part of the family enterprise Mountain Blue Farms, said Oprah had inadvertently increased world consumption of blueberries by commenting that she ate a punnet a day.

Development application approved

Whatever the reason, the blueberry business is thriving and Kyogle Council has approved a development application from Mountain Blue Farms to build a $3 million blueberry packing plant, 10km out of Tabulam.

The plant will be located on Tabulam Road, directly across the Clarence River from Blue Mountain Farms' existing blueberry farm.

Mayor Danielle Mulholland said that when built, the packing plant was expected to create 22 permanent jobs.

"This is on top of the approximately 500-plus seasonal workers that the farm is expected to employ to harvest the blueberries each year," she said.

Ms Bell said names for jobs were being taken via the company's website.

Substantial boost for local economy

"Blueberries not only help showcase the area's agricultural diversity but also have the potential to provide a substantial boost to the local economy through the influx of permanent and itinerant workers to the area who will need accommodation, food, fuel and the like," Cr Mulholland said.

"The council has worked closely with Blue Mountain Farms to ensure that any development control issues could be appropriately addressed and to get this important industry activated in our local area.

"This has included holding talks with members of the local community about opportunities for providing additional accommodation for workers."

Independent analyses for the council predict that the packing plant operation will bring at least $8.9 million of additional economic output to the area, with $4.7 million of value-adding to the Kyogle economy annually.

Council will receive significant Section 94 developer contributions as well as additional works from the applicant towards road upgrades along Tabulam Rd as part of the consent conditions.

"This is expected to make the stretch of the road between the intersections with the Bruxner Highway and Jacksons Flat Rd considerably safer," executive manager of development and planning Manfred Boldy said.

Blueberries will be packed fresh from the farm and transported to distributors for supermarket outlets in Australia and international markets ... and possibly to Oprah's house.

Check here for a blueberry and banana smoothie from Oprah's page.



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