Cooloola Berries is ripe for success

- December 8, 2019 2 MIN READ

From farm gate to plate is an adage Jason Lewis takes seriously. As a third-generation strawberry farmer, Jason and his wife Kim have expanded upon the family’s berry business to develop Cooloola Berries as a must-visit tourist destination on Queensland’s sunshine coast.

Hundreds of people flock to the farm each week to drink strawberry cider, eat strawberry inspired desserts and ice-creams, and just enjoy relaxing in a beautiful setting.

Jason tells Kochie’s Business Builders that the farming spirit underpins his family’s business success.

“The whole family is directly involved in planting, harvesting and selling farm produce.”

While today Cooloola Berries is a thriving business Jason admits the family has seen tough times.

“Drought and low prices are just some of the major challenges for small crop farmers.  Our family began selling premium strawberry varieties at local farmers markets, before opening the gates of the family farm, to share the romance of picking sweet, ripe, delicious fruit,” he says.

Indeed it was back in 2007 that the family purchased a 10-acre farm in Wolvi that was to become the site of Cooloola Berries. 12 years later the farm has been transformed into the business that visitors see today. Apart from being a fully operating strawberry farm which harvests around 80,000 berries, the business has evolved to include a café and the option for visitors to pick their own punnets of strawberries straight from the farm.

Jason and Kim have developed the farm with sustainability in mind and the business has Snail of Approval status – the international recognition program aimed at inspiring producers, businesses, and consumers, to promote and consume good, clean and fair produce and ingredients. Jason and Kim work with local producers to coordinate the Cooloola Farm Trail (supported by Tourism Noosa & Tourism Gympie) and are the founders of the Snail of Approval by Slow Food Noosa working group to create a food circle of producers, restaurants/ shops and locals who value the food community.

The family is justifiably proud of the honour, with Jason saying one of his greatest achievements has been opening the gates of the family farm, welcoming visitors and offering a taste of the region with their ‘Snail of Approval Slow Food’ menu.

While the business has diversified in recent time its still the family’s berries which are renowned for their delectable flavour that is the star. In 2018 Cooloola Berries was nominated for the National Delicious produce award by Christine Mansfield and in the same year, they came away with a win in the State Delicious produce awards.

Everyone in the business is very hands-on Kim, Jason, their kids and Jason’s dad run the strawberry farm and cafe and set up for festival events. It’s a true definition of a family business and Jason and Kim wouldn’t have it any other way.

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