I had the privilege of hearing firsthand from Tableland producers at the Farmer Meets Foodie sessions at this year’s Taste of the Tablelands. I interviewed a variety of innovative farmers who shared their stories, challenges and information about their products. The diversity of produce and stories represented by the panellists was really impressive, we are so lucky on the Tablelands to have such a variety of delicious products grown here right on our doorsteps.
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The morning panel session included Andy Csorba from Wongabel Farm and Geraldine McGuire from Rainforest Bounty who both grow a variety of Rainforest Fruits. Quite different operations, Wongabel Farm grows their products primarily for making jams all within 5 acres which they sell across North Queensland while Rainforest Bounty has several orchards, a cooking school and restaurant and is delving more into export markets. The afternoon session included pork and lamb producer Ross Clarksmith from Halycon Fields, Geoff Haines from Tableland Wagyu Beef, Margo Watkins from Rainforest Heart and Rob Watkins from Natural Evolution.
Ross and his family grow chemical free and ethically raised pork and lamb at Dimbulah which they sell direct to the consumer through their website. This is done using rotational grazing methods. Geoff and his wife Leanne converted to Wagyu Beef which is full of healthy omega 3 fats and now sell cuts and locally made pies direct to the consumer at markets.
Margo Watkins also grows rainforest fruits and has moved more into selling the fruits in a dried powdered form for use in gourmet cooking. While Rob Watkins spoke on the challenges of developing banana flour and how they have been able to successfully start this industry on the Tablelands.
The panellists told of their challenges of proving their product in unknown markets and the value of what their produce offers to consumers. It was clear that the producers are passionate and committed to what they do and are producing world class products.
There is a huge interest in local produce, as reflected by the number of people attending Tastes of the Tablelands, people are really interested in where their food comes from and are questioning how it was grown and likewise many farmers are wanting people to know the work and care they’ve put into producing the food – at the moment a lot of that story is lost. Food events such as Tastes of the Tablelands are a great way to get to meet some of our producers and hear that story. The next big foodie event coming up in FNQ is Feast of the Senses 23-28th March 2017 in Innisfail, see you there!