Farmer Meets Foodie aims to bridge the gap between the farm gate and the commercial kitchen allowing producers and commercial foodies to connect directly. Founder Erica Hughes is passionate about supporting farmers in getting good value for their products, sharing the stories behind how food is grown and supporting commercial foodies in their commitment to using local produce.
LOCAL PRODUCE REVOLUTION
Something has shifted in North Queensland.
Although we have always had an appreciation of the diverse and unique produce that is grown across the region, this appreciation has become a part of a national shift to know the stories behind the food we are eating, who has grown it, how it was grown and what’s gone into it.
Television shows such as the Gourmet Farmer and River Cottage Australia have given us a new appreciation and reignited the desire to be connected with where our food has come from.
In a recent visit to North Queensland, Paul West, host of SBS program River Cottage Australia, was in awe of the produce we have available in North Queensland and spoke of the importance of consumers having a relationship with food producers. Fortunately, the opportunities to do that are becoming more available with both food producers and chefs looking to share their stories.
If you haven’t already, how do you immerse yourself in the Local Produce Revolution?
Traditionally farm gate sales, road side stalls and going to weekend markets were the main options for sourcing local produce, which are still a great option and a great way to familiarise yourself with what’s in season. Be sure to take the time to talk to stall holders at the markets and get to know how their product is grown and be aware that not all produce sold at market is necessarily local. Stall holders may bring in other fruit and veg from further afield to create a greater range of available products or if they have less product in season.
The rise of the internet has really turned accessing local produce into a whole new experience. There are now a range of producers across North Queensland who are telling their stories through social media and often selling their products direct, they usually have a website where you can order online. Sometimes, these are compiled by a third party and delivered to you but very often, the farmer is delivering directly to you.
There are more and more options becoming available including fresh fruit, veg, beef, chicken, lamb, seafood and eggs. The advantage of this method is that you get to know the person who’s produced the food as well as how that food was produced.
Following these producers on social media and ordering food through them is another way to become familiar with the seasonality of produce and is an opportunity to explore new recipes and change your menu at home to suit the seasons.
People who receive a weekly produce box are loving the challenge of discovering fruit and veg they had never heard. Likewise, those that are ordering meat in bulk are discovering new cuts of meat and again learning new recipes or finding old family favourites from the times when nose to tail eating was a way of life.
It is also wonderful to see the range of green grocers in the region that are sourcing and promoting local produce, they are fully immersed in the Local Produce Revolution by labelling their produce and identifying what is local on the shelves.
Even more exciting, is the food trucks, cafés and restaurants that are going out of their way to not only source local produce, but make it known on their menus – including which farms are supplying it.
But including local produce in the menu is not as easy as it sounds. Time pressures mean there is little room for contacting and travelling around to get a variety of ingredients from farms that are spread out – often only having one or two products. Delivery can also be a challenge, as is seasonality and continuity of supply (we as customers love to go back for our same favourite meal which is unlikely to have local ingredients in it all year round).
However, as the food lovers of Australia (and North Queensland is no exception) become more and more fascinated by the story of the food they are eating, the Chefs of our regions are finding ways to overcome these challenges, introducing seasonal menus and getting more local produce on the plate.