News of Zealand

NZ's Pick-As-You-Go Berry Farms Under Threat From Sticky Fingered Customers

"The berries are pick your own, not all you can eat."
A woman picks her own raspberries
Image via Shutterstock

Anyone who has picked their own berries knows it is pretty much impossible not to eat a couple along the way. But fruit growers say too many people are taking advantage of the system, and that “pick-as-you-go” farms have turned into “gorge-as-you-go” frenzies.

Marlborough berry grower Andrew Bassett says he has had to tell customers to stop binging on berries before the checkout several times because it's emptying his pockets, Stuff reports. He even made a sign to remind people that if they aren’t paying for the berries, it means he is. "We believe in fair exchange. The berries are pick your own, not all you can eat," the sign reads.

"We were just getting a bit fed up of people coming in thinking they're entitled to eat as many as they like while they're picking," Bassett said. "When you get a family and they take one punnet and there's four people picking and tasting as they go, that's where the balance shifts and it becomes unfair for the farmer."

Whanganui growers had no choice but to temporarily shut down their ‘pick-as-you-go’ attraction in November last year, because there was just too much theft.

Tasting a couple as you go to see what ripeness you like is fine, but Bassett said the line between tasting and eating is crossed far too often. People stashing berries away in bags and prams or eating as they pick is nearly costing him the same as employing someone to pick that punnet for him, he said.

So if you prefer to pick your own, you better rinse those sticky fingers before it’s too late.