While many harvests were disrupted by recent flooding across central west New South Wales, a berry farmer near Orange has experienced his best yield on record.
- Berry farmers are experiencing their best harvest on record following bumper conditions
- Huntley Berry Farm says it is a welcome relief following years of drought
- The spread of Omicron has resulted in a decline in visitors to the farm following a good start to the season
Huntley Berry Farm manager Tony Belmonte said the weather conditions could not have been more perfect after heavy rainfall and warm temperatures.
"To date we are having an awesome season, picking a lot of strawberries. It is possibly going to be our best blueberry season on record, even raspberries are just out there flourishing," Mr Belmonte said.
"In the last 30 years that I have lived in Orange, it would have to be the most amount of rain that it has ever received.
"Everything is just lining up, we have got plenty of moisture, plenty of sunshine."
Orange Airport received 1,455 millimetres of rain in 2021 — making it the fourth wettest year on record in the region.
Mr Belmonte said after years of drought this summer had been a welcome relief.
"Due to the extreme heat and the lack of rain over the last three years during the drought season, most of our fruit didn't develop or grow at all," he said.
"When it did grow on those hot summer days through December, it was actually so hot that it was just dropping to the ground.
"So this is actually the first time in three years that the Huntley Berry Farm has actually picked blueberries.
Threat of Omicron
While there are plenty of berries available, the spread of Omicron has had an impact on visitors to the farm, particularly with the cancellation of large bus tours.
"We have seen a downturn in visitors since it has been in the news lately, I think people are starting to get a little bit nervous," Mr Belmonte said.
"The bus trips out here on the farm are a big part of our revenue.
"It is always devastating when visitors have to cancel their trips.
The Huntley Berry Farm employs 14 disability workers as part of a program to help them gain farm skills for future employment.
Mr Belmonte said in order to protect staff they had made changes to the way they operated.
"We have reacted to that by having our staff work different days so some are not exposed to visitors."