WHEN life gives you a record crop of strawberries and a lockdown, you make strawberry jam.
This was the solution to cutting down on food waste at Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries in Port Macquarie when they joined forces with The Other Chef to turn their record crop of strawberries into jam instead of throwing it out.
"A lot of other food producers had to dump their products during the lockdown because there were no visitors and restaurants, who would usually buy the produce, were closed," owner of Ricardoes Anthony Sarks said.
"We just decided that we couldn't dump it and we had to find another use for it."
Usually Ricardoes would have been filled with people from far and wide for the strawberry-picking experience in the farm's five kilometre avenues of fruit. However, the month-long lockdown meant there were no tourists and not even locals were able to visit.
"It was quite hard. We were prepared for visitors to come during the busy period," Mr Sarks said.
"The winter break is a peak time for city families to habitually visit the farm, it's one of the year's biggest influxes of tourists in the relatively warm Mid North Coast climate."
Although making jam from leftover produce is not new for the farm, this year saw a record amount of jam made.
"As a sustainable practice, Ricardoes has regularly sent surplus fruit for conversion in a local commercial kitchen into strawberry jam, tomato and strawberry jam and strawberry vinegar," Mr Sarks said.
"Dumping fresh quality fruit, or leaving it to rot, absolutely goes against the grain.
"As farmers, we always want to ensure the effort put into producing our healthy crops is never wasted."
The record amount of strawberry jam made during lockdown at the farm also allowed staff to continue working.
"We have a loyal staff of about 20 people and we aim to stand by them in what were extremely tight trading circumstances," Mr Sarks said.
"All of our staff were able to remain on deck and continue working during the lockdown."
The result was 25,000 jars of strawberry jam created at The Other Chef in Port Macquarie which is owned and operated by chef and providore Eric Robinson. The business makes around 30 products from the leftover fruit from Ricardoes.
"We now have about 14 pallets loaded with jars of jam. The challenge now is to move it," Mr Sarks said.
"There have been a few mail orders put through and we are encouraging locals to support local as well.
"We went into this decision as a gamble because we couldn't just dump the produce and we thought we would worry about selling it later.
"There has been some interest which is promising. There's definitely going to be some cheap strawberry jam around now."
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