Needles in strawberries charges dropped

16th July 2021 | Eativity editors

The Queensland strawberry industry was surprised and disappointed by Wednesday’s announcement that the case against a former farm worker accused of placing needles in strawberries in 2018 has been dropped. The prosecution said it would not be proceeding with the case as it “no longer had a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction”.

“Of course we’re disappointed that there isn’t going to be formal closure for the industry on this matter,” says President of the Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Association (QSGA), Adrian Schultz. “But we respect the judicial process. And we thank those involved in bringing this matter to its end. Like all fresh food producers, strawberry growers strive to ensure the quality and security of their produce. These spiteful incidents – compounded by thoughtless copycat behaviour – were extremely disheartening.”

Needles in strawberries charges dropped
Strawberry growers like Luvaberry are continuing their hard work, with harvest season now starting.

Strawberries can’t wait

Schultz says that while they might be discouraged by the case developments, growers remain focused on the current harvest and the unique challenges it presents.

“When you’re a farmer, you only ever look forward, not back, and every season has its challenges,” he says. “This year, we’re facing chronic shortages in seasonal labour. With such a short shelf-life, strawberries absolutely can’t wait when they’re ripe and ready to go. They must be picked almost daily. Otherwise, there’s a risk of the fruit spoiling in the field.”

Queensland strawberry growers are a truly resilient bunch, having weathered more than their fair share of storms in recent years. But many remain optimistic, and have ploughed on doing what they do best, which is growing fresh, juicy strawberries.

Pick strawberries, win cash

With the peak of the harvest starting in just a few weeks, farmers are facing their biggest challenge yet. They need to attract thousands of workers between now and October. And with unseasonably cold conditions resulting in a slow start to harvest season, the need for workers across the next three months is now critical.

In response to severe labour challenges, QSGA came up with an industry-first to attract workers to join the industry. The association launched an activity to incentivise potential workers with the chance to play to win up to $100,000. There are 10 cash prizes up for grabs, and the longer you work on a strawberry farm, the more chances you have to win.

Needles in strawberries charges dropped, and growers still need workers
QGSA’s initiative has recruited more farm workers. It’s hoped other horticultural industries will benefit, too.

Give farm work a go

The program opened on April 8 and more than 3000 workers had signed up by late June. With the slow start to the harvest, most of the 31 participating farms have had enough workers from the first round of entrants to get them through the early part of the season.

“The incentive aims to attract all kinds of workers to give farm work a go, with a view to staying at a single strawberry farm for the entire winter season,” says Jane Richter, QSGA Marketing Manager. “The more weeks a worker completes, the more entry points they earn. Ultimately, 10 workers will have a chance to win up to $100,000 each in October this year.”

Want to try farm work and win cash? Head to the Queensland Strawberries website.