Meet the Producer

Strawberry Fields Forever

Sean Charlton grows strawberries for Co-op. He’s a fourth-generation farmer with his great-grandfather growing fruit back in the 1950s, before the farm passed to Sean’s grandfather then his father, Phillip.

In his own words

“I fell in love with strawberries after doing an apprenticeship on a strawberry farm,’ he says. “So, when I joined the business in the early 1990s, I told Dad I wanted to grow them.

“When I started here, we had 60 acres of strawberries and around 15 pickers. Today we have around 250 acres and, at peak times, we have 1,000 people helping with the harvest.”

The fruit from each plant is hand-picked two or three times a week, and the result is an amazing 10 million punnets of berries every year. The team of pickers are trained to know when the strawberries are at their best, looking out for size and colour. Pickers also harvest the damaged or diseased berries that are turned into sauces and smoothies, while the rest are fed to the birds or processed in the farm’s anaerobic digester.

Sean grows Murano strawberries for Co-op. “We trialled lots of different varieties before choosing Murano for its sweetness,” he says. “The plants don’t grow very well in our climate, but the berries thrive, so we bring them over from Italy as plants the size of your thumb.”

Initiatives like the energy-saving digester show that Sean has his eyes firmly set on the future. The farm is trying out glasshouses with retractable roofs to make the most of the warm weather.

"Because we associate them with summer, there’s definitely something special about strawberries"

Sean concludes, “When they’re on the shelves, everyone knows it’s time to get the barbecue out."

Sean talks strawberries

Join us in our Strawberry fields

Use our Co-op strawberries to make these delicious recipes