Another huge win for berry business
WINNING Business of the Year at the 2016 Bendigo Bank Gympie Chamber of Commerce awards is no small feat, but Jason and Kim Lewis from Cooloola Berries are taking it all in their stride.
Gaining the win was the icing on the cake for the Wolvi business which was also runners-up in the Tourism Award and Marketing Award sections.
"We're very thrilled to receive so much recognition in such a little time being in business," Kim Lewis said.
Kim is the marketing brains behind the business but it is all based around Jason's lifelong love of agriculture.
Jason Lewis's passion for strawberry farming spans three generations.
His grandparents, originally from Sydney, started out picking the season of 1964-65.
Jason's parents met and married in Silvan and grew strawberries in the Lockyer Valley between 1970 and 1990.
In the mid-1990s Jason began working for the newly established Eumundi Strawberries.
In 2005, Jason began growing strawberries while he continued full time off-farm work.
The family began building on the earlier success of selling premium strawberry varieties at local farmer's markets.
In 2007, Jason purchased a four hectare (10 acre) rose farm in Wolvi and, with both Kim and the children directly involved, began planting, harvesting and selling farm produce.
"We were inspired by the region's farming history and the beautiful surroundings. The farm's close proximity to the Fraser and Sunshine coasts offered many business opportunities. One of the greatest achievements has been opening the gates of the family farm and sharing the romance of picking sweet, ripe, delicious fruit," he said.
Cooloola Berries has 50,000 strawberries, 600 blueberries and plans are in place to harvest raspberries this season.
All fruit is picked ripe, and sold locally or from the farm gate and in addition to the fresh fruit, have a range of innovative value-added products including handmade jams, preserves, fruit blended ice-creams and fruit desserts.
"We share our passion for farming and welcome schools and tour groups to experience life on the farm and generate more interest in agriculture," he said.
The three awards from Thursday's Chamber of Commerce awards will join their growing line of achievements which include the Delicious magazine producer awards 2016 State Winner, being selected as Australian delegates for small scale farming at Terra Madre, Italy, and the Gympie Women in Business 2016 Business of the Year award.