Health and safety close pick-your-own strawberry farm

Hundreds of British pick-your-own farms could be under threat because of health and safety fears.

The Boddington family has been welcoming families onto their award-winning strawberry farm in Tregoney Hill, near Mevagissey, Cornwall, for more than 40 years. But, following increased insurance premiums, they have decided that they can no longer afford to offer pick-your-own.

Phil Boddington, whose grandfather William set up the farm 60 years ago, and whose father Richard pioneered pick-your-own in Cornwall, says: ‘It is a sad day. It’s so fulfilling to see a family go into a field and pick their own fruit.

‘Unfortunately, it’s seen as a risk to let the public onto what is deemed to be a strawberry factory in the eyes of the insurers and health and safety people.

‘It’s a sign of the times. When we tell people why we stopped doing pick-your-own, there is a lot of eye-rolling. It does not sit well with the family.’

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During the 40 years, only two people have ever been injured on the farm, but a woman who was hurt in a fall last year is now in the process of suing. As a consequence, the insurance company has increased the premium and demanded that the Boddingtons place handrails on drainage ditches and cordons around potholes.

This decision has led to fears that many other farms will also face stiffer premiums and decide that pick-your-own is no longer tenable.

Jim Dart, a pick-your-own farmer in Devon, says: ‘The situation has not arisen for us, but it does send shivers down your spine.’

Ian Johnson, of the NFU, says: ‘We live in a very litigious age. It is a very sad and unfortunate incident at Boddington’s, which I’m sure they regret as much as anyone, that after such a long time of letting people enjoy coming to pick fruit, they will not be able to do that anymore.’

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