Bring your friends and family and come pick your own strawberries,” asked Eastern Cape farm girl Izanne Ferreira on Facebook earlier this month – and since then holidaymakers have been doing just that at her family’s Mooihoek Boerdery in Hankey.
Strawberry picking is a fun outing for fans of the sweet red fruit and gives visitors the chance to select exactly what they want from the cornucopia on offer.
After all, how often do you buy a punnet of strawberries or other fruit from the supermarket only to get home and fine one or more are misshapen, growing whiskers, squashed or unripe?
Of course, if you factor in the cost of petrol to get from Port Elizabeth to Hankey, then it is clear you won’t be buying your strawberries any cheaper than from the shops.
However, you will have the satisfaction of picking only the juiciest, ripest berries, fresh from the bush.
It also will give the city dwellers in particular a new appreciation that food does not grow in packets, but from the soil. What’s more, it’s highly unlikely you will be able to resist the temptation to sample a few along the way.
Before you start, you need to find the farm: head through Hankey on the main road from Port Elizabeth and turn left at the sign for Backhouse Hoek/Milton/Rooi Vlakte/Vensterhoek. From there it is only a kilometre or so before you see the Mooihoek Boerdery signs. Mooihoek is next to the Gamtoos River outside the town and has come a long way since farmer’s wife Madelé Ferreira planted 5 000 strawberry plants in what was then her rose garden. Now there are half-a-million plants on the farm and it supplies strawberries and other fresh produce to national supermarkets. Ferreira and Mooihoek have also created dozens of jobs, much needed in the Gamtoos Valley.
You will drive onto a dirt road, take the left fork and then only 200m further on take another dirt road to the right – it is not signposted – which leads to the fields open to the public.
Park close to a table laid with a white and red check tablecloth, where (hopefully) there will be someone taking your money in exchange for a polystyrene tray for your fruit. It’s a simple system: you buy an empty punnet for R30, walk down your chosen rows and select berries to fill it.
December is peak season for the berries and Mooihoek is only open until January 5 for the public to go and pick, subject to availability.
Its hours are Monday to Friday from 8am to 4.30pm, and on Saturday from 9am to 2pm. There are no sales on Christmas Day, and it is a good idea to check the weather – you really don’t want to wade through mud or wind while you pick.
More information from Izanne Ferreira, 082-927-1831.