Mundubbera blueberries a national hit

The farm employs up to 400 seasonal workers each year. Pictures: Smart Berries.

By Neesha Sinnya

In the North Burnett town of Mundubbera, you’ll find an expanse of blueberries that feed Australians across the country.

Stewart ’Blade’ McKenzie has been the farm manager at the 100-hectare property since 2013.

Blade regards Mundubbera blueberries as some of the finest in Australia.

“The season is going well at the moment – the berries are good quality with good flavour,” he said.

The farming operation, overseen by Smart Berries Australia, started as 40 hectares and gradually grew to its mammoth size today.

The picking season starts in September and runs through to November, Stewart usually hires around 370 to 400 workers during this time.

With Covid-19 restrictions putting a halt on travel it has been harder than ever for the farmer to find seasonal workers.

“It’s been very difficult, we usually try to use local contractors and seasonal workers,” he said.

The North Burnett is well known for its fruit orchards, from citrus to mangoes and blueberries.

Blade said the farming community in the region is strong and close-knit with seasonal workers often moving across the properties depending on the season.

“The community out here is easygoing and was interested to see what was happening for our new and different project.

“It’s a big expense to startup, you need a good backing and good land,” he said.

In terms of the actual crop, Blade describes the berries as ‘crisp and delicious’.

“Mundubbera blueberries are some of the top-quality producers in the country – they are a little bit tart with a bit of crunch, you can really taste the flavours,” Blade said.

“We are concentrating on improving quality and flavour with our cultural practices and we have also installed a reverse osmosis plant for improving the water quality thus improving the quality and shelf life of the fruit,“ he added.

Like many farmers in Queensland, Blade faces challenges with water security.

He finds it hard to look after his vast property with a limited source available via the Boyne Burnett river.

“We of course face challenges like water shortages from the Boyne and hail storms affect us for sure, we haven’t had to deal with anything too drastic since we started,” Blade said.

You can try Mundubbera blueberries under the Smart Berries brand across most supermarkets.