From humble soil and grass to quality food and fibre, the Otway region is gearing up again to put on a showcase of everything locally grown and sown this April, including olives, cheeses, native bush foods, fruits and vegetables, honey, meat, small goods, wine and other brewed delights. Forté chat to organiser Andrew Gray ahead of the event.
Hey Andy. For readers new to the region, can you tell us a bit about the showcase?
The Otway Food and Fibre Showcase is a biennial one day event celebrating the diversity and quality of food and fibre producers in our region (Colac Showgrounds on Sunday 28 April 2019).
More often than not, these producers are also land managers so the event has an additional focus on sharing the story of these farmers and their stewardship for the land that sustains us all. We do this by mixing stall holders (farmers) with guest presenters, hosting workshops and presentations about all things local food and fibre. Let just say it’s a ‘meet the maker’ big day out!
What’s the main idea behind this showcase? What are people to take away from the event?
The main idea behind the showcase is to encourage participants to pose some simple but powerful questions or considerations when it comes to buying food and fibre. Effectively, buying food and fibre is a farming and land management decision. Our purchases help determine how the land around us is managed for future generations. Buying locally and taking the time to ‘know your farmer’ contributes to social health, landscape health, the local economy and building a resilient food and fibre system.
Who is this event for? Food lovers, families, farmers etc.?
The event is for all of us who eat and wear clothes… That’s right, if you eat and wear clothes you are making a farming and land management decisions. Chefs and cooks love the event as it’s become a bit of a dating service for them to meet the farmers. Families have a great day out with many staying for several hours to participate in the workshops while the kids enjoy the food, fibre, arts and wildlife based activities. If you’re a food lover, this is the place to stock the pantry with all things grown and sown your back yard.
It’s been two years since the last event back in 2017. Are there any massive changes this year for event number three?
Having two years to plan allows us to observe changes, themes and conversations around local food and fibre. It also allows us to invite guest presenters who are current and hands on in such an important field. This year we will have three stages running concurrently. One is dedicated to local fibre production and systems, the other two cover all things from cultural land practices, regenerative farming, soil biology and pasture health, food availability and land accessibility, home butchery, young farmers and even a range of local chefs who offer diverse local food experiences.
For someone attending the showcase, how would you recommend they approach the day?
Make sure you check the stage schedules on the website (please note, schedules will be announced April 1). We are minimising waste as much as possible so be sure to bring your reusable drink bottles, coffee cups and carry bags.
Tell us about how your passion for local produce began?
My passion for local food and fibre has come from wanting to know who produced the food we eat and how they produce it. Having a keen interest and later a professional interest in natural systems, biology, conservation and environment, I realised early on that food choices are important. If we want mineral rich, healthy, ethical food it needs to come from land that is being looked after. I’ve realised that if we help farmers at the pointy end of business, we have the opportunity to also help them with managing the land that sustains us all. I’m fortunate to work in a field that encompasses my passion and allows me to link food and fibre production with regenerative land management and in turn, human and environmental health and resilience.
How do you go about sourcing local growers and makers? Do they have to meet any specific requirements to be involved in this festival?
Most local growers who attend the event are people I have met and worked with in my role as a Landcare Facilitator with the Central Otway Landcare Network. Others, I have come across at regional food and fibre events or on social media. We just make sure they are sourcing locally and/or growing their own. Sometimes stall holders are doing their best, but by getting involved in the event they see more opportunities to network and source even more local ingredients and implement practice change.
There seems to be more conversation and interest in the local produce field around the country as with more access to information now. How do you think things are changing and evolving in the local produce field?
I think people are questioning the origins of their food more and more. Once people start asking questions they inevitably get to a point where they need to ‘know their farmer’. There’s also a strong link back to climate and environmental issues and peoples ability to make choices that can contribute to the solutions and not the problems. When consumers make the link from food and fibre choices to farmers and their stewardship role in land health which leads to human health, it’s a no brainer!
Thanks for chatting. Any last words?
There’s music too – we have the talented Finnigan August @finninganaugust and Tommy Castles @tommycastles entertaining us throughout the day. These fellas are definitely flying the flag for the Otways and Surf Coast!
Head on down to The Otway Food and Fibre Showcase at the Colac Showgrounds from 9am-4pm on April 28th. Entry is a gold coin donation.
For more info head to barongarooklandcare.org.au/otway-food-and-fibre-showcase-2019/