Cafe rises from strawberry bad patch

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A new venture has arisen from the ashes of a disaster at the Newell Rd Strawberry Farm.

Punnet Cafe, 337 Newell Rd. Click here to find it on the map.

Strawberry grower Gary McMahon accidentally sprayed his strawberries with herbicide in December 2008, killing the plants and leaving him with no income for the season.

The disaster led him to look at where his business had most risk, the Waikato Times reported.

McMahon decided if the crop failed he did not have a fall-back plan and the result has seen him open a cafe which ensures he has income year-round.

Punnet cafe opened last month at the Newell Rd property.

Mr McMahon said they had been offering ice creams from the Strawberry Farm for the past seven of eight years but thought their patch was more of a destination.

“I think we need to get more people out here. It’s a lovely site, we just want people to came and enjoy it.”

Punnet operates from 8am until 4pm daily offering brunch until 11am, the menu including eggs benedict, and lunch from 12, in what Mr McMahon describes as a “sit-down” situation.

“We aren’t heating up paninis and doing that type of thing. We do scallops, a steak sandwich and a rack of lamb, that type of thing,” he told the Waikato Times.

The business had employed two full-time chefs, wait staff and a barista.

He said the past season had been a challenging one for growers but did not rival the disastrous season where he had no income at all.

His business had managed in the recession because he was a smaller supplier, selling to retailers and not sending as much to the wholesalers.

He said next season they hoped to open the patch up to pick-your-own.

“It’s an entertainment destination focus we’re trying to promote.”

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