South Australian pick-your-own-fruit farm Frances Strawberries has closed its doors due to inconsistent customer visitation, but the owners aren’t blaming COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Key points:

  • After five years Frances Strawberries has closed its doors
  • The owner says the visitation was too inconsistent
  • Frances is located just a few kilometres from the Victorian-SA border

Owner Samantha Frost said the operation “just wasn’t working”.

“We’d love to be able to offer what we currently do, but it’s just not profitable in its current structure,” she said.

“I spoke to a number of people and one person particularly said, ‘It’s not what you bring into your bank account, it’s what you keep.'”

Ms Frost did not put the closure down to Frances’ proximity to the South Australia-Victoria border.

“Poor COVID has copped the blame for a lot of things, and sometimes I think it’s a bit of a cop-out using it when it’s not necessarily the root cause of the problem,” she said.

“It definitely didn’t help — we lost over half of our clientele for a very long time.

“You could have an exceptionally busy weekend and then, you know, you have this really big quiet spell and all the profits that you have made from those busy days dissipated.”

Frances Strawberries is a few kilometres from the Victorian border.(Supplied: Samantha Frost)

Turning off the taps

Ms Frost said the future of the remaining strawberry plants was uncertain.

The Frosts have turned off water to 8,000 plants, and pruned back the remaining 8,000.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure how much I’m going to be able to handle just on my own,” she said.

“At the moment, we actually don’t have any fruit in production.

“We have turned half of the plants off, and we have pruned off the other half, but there’s actually no fresh fruit at the moment to give me a chance to wind everything up.

“For now we have told our wholesalers that we can’t continue the full range that we offer, but we just asked them to talk to us and if I have the time, I’ll get the product out.

The Frosts have cut off the water to half of their strawberry plants.(Supplied: Samantha Frost)

“The ones that we have pruned off, they will bounce back, probably – they’re just starting to shoot out flowers now – so probably about in another month’s time we should have fruit back on board.

“I still think what we’ve got in will probably be too much, but we thought we will start with that and we can always turn off more if we have to.”

‘Amazing experience’

Ms Frost said she had to prioritise her family.

“As we spoke to friends and various people about it, they have always reiterated that we need to do what is best for our family,” she said.

Ms Frost says her family had to come first.(Supplied: Samantha Frost)

She said it was tough to close the shop.

“It was an amazing experience — it was one of the most rewarding and it would be one of the hardest things that we’ve ever done,” Ms Frost said.

“You have this wish and hope that it will work and you think you can make it work … sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

“The two weeks since we announced our closure to actually closing, would be one of the hardest two weeks of my life I think I’ve ever done.”

Ms Frost hasn’t ruled out the possibility of reopening the operation.(Supplied: Samantha Frost)

Ms Frost said there was still the possibility of reopening in the future.

“We just never know — hopefully we can come up with a structure down the track that we think could work and everything’s still there.