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Old Codgers Online - Strawberry pillage

When my daughters were little, one of their prime treats was to go strawberry picking and, to my annoyance, laugh uproariously at the notices urging: “Pick your own.”

They loved picking Kent strawberries in the sunshine and eating a handful or two as they worked. But that was 40 years ago when people were nicer and less avaricious.

Now PYO farmers throughout the country are having to ban people from their strawberry fields because, in one farmer’s expressive words “many of these greedy bastards are eating more than they pay for.”

In the past, pickers bought large amounts of fruit to cover what they consumed. But no more.

In 2008, pickers are taking pots of cream to dip strawberries in as they pick them and, in extreme cases, men and women arrive at payment desks covered in juice and offer up punnets of three or four strawberries.

Mark Spight, owner of Hacker’s Farm, in Cambridgeshire, is so sick of “the unrelenting pillage” that he has stopped growing strawberries. He estimates his farm lost more than £10,000 last year because so many people ate for free.

Fairly recently, strawberry growers charged just £1 for a pound weight – half the price in supermarkets. But families were gorging on up to £15 worth of fruit without paying, costing businesses up to £225 a day.

A fruit farmer in Cornwall claims to have lost £40 a day to “avaricious nasties.”

“We encourage people to eat a couple, that’s part of the experience. But some go overboard,” he said. “We’ve put up a sign that says: 'Please taste one or two – but no greedy pigs’.”

Good for you chum. Do some people have no shame?

Don't miss the full wrath of the Codgers each Monday in the print edition of the Medway Messenger

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