Taj Rai, Blueberries
Taj, is an enthusiastic blueberry grower from Woolgoolga. His father and grandfather have farmed the same ground for many years. However, the staple crop, bananas, has had decreasing returns for the last few years and with the retirement of his father, the opportunity that presented itself with blueberries became increasingly attractive. The returns can be good, but the inputs, especially labour is high.
There are also risks: heavy rains, hail, birds, high humidity and diseases, and the ability to source reliable labour at picking.
His fruit is packed in a packing house. The majority of his fruit goes into punnets and is sold to the large supermarkets, which are then distributed throughout Australia.
However, where over ripe, fruit too small, fruit that has been ripped at the stalk comes through the packing house then this is not acceptable to the supermarkets, his fruit is downgraded and is of little value. This is commonly referred to as 'seconds' although there is certainly nothing second about the flavour. Taj approached Red Dirt to try to do something with his fruit which was otherwise destined to be mulch or even landfill.
After several trials we established that we could ferment these Blueberries into a very acceptable wine and that we could distill, extracting excellent flavour with the alcohol. With Taj's support we are continuing trials with a range of blueberry varieties and undertaking further trial work to produce other exciting alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.