Eat Local Month

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Eat Local Month

With a product on the shelf often the only means for farmers to communicate with the buyers, Eat Local Month is all about challenging this notion and celebrating the diversity and quality of produce on offer in the Surf Coast. First and foremost, the month long event made up of more than a dozen individual events is about connecting producer to consumer and letting knowledge disperse between the two.

“We’ve got the same kind of diversity [as other cities] but a lot of people don’t actually know what we’ve got or where to source it,” volunteer and organiser Sarah Bolus says with Sydney and Adelaide in mind.

“So if we can create festivals like Eat Local Month, or Feast even, to showcase that and make people aware that’s our aim.”

Previously the Surf Coast and Otway region were known for their array of dairy farms and grain products, but as Eat Local Month and Sarah have picked up, the farming and produce scenes are in a state of change.

“We’re seeing the transition where people can’t always afford to live off the big farms like [they used to] so they’re going down to a boutique size where they’re on 80 to 100 acres. Someone like Ravens Creek, who are doing a diversity of beef lamb, honey, berries on a small property – we’re seeing more and more of that,” she says.

And the farmers, like Ravens Creek, couldn’t be more thankful for the month long celebration of their years of hard work.

“They’re super supportive and we find farmers like that are so grateful that we’re doing something like this,” Sarah says.

“Often they don’t have the time to market themselves and promote themselves and the great things they’re doing, because they’re so caught up with day-to-day farm life and often sometimes they don’t have the budget either. I suppose that’s where we come in and source some funding and help to market what they’re doing.”

The team behind Eat Local Month have set the month up with events ranging from markets to roaming dinners and everything in between, and they’ve done it all for the pure joy of seeing the region thrive. As have the sponsors who have helped see this come to fruition; Surf Coast Shire and Colac Otway Shire.

“We do it as a bit of a love job,” Sarah adds. “We really want to promote our region and we take pride in our region.”

Growing up in the region and coming from a farming background makes it easier for Sarah to recognise the work the farmers are doing, and hopefully through the Eat Local Month events that will become much easier for those who may otherwise be rather unawares.

“It’s about connecting people with where their food comes from and once they’ve got that connection they’re more appreciative,” she says.

“They get to see there is a lot of work in this and they’re more appreciative and willing, also the animals are very well cared for (they’re free ranging) and so they’re willing to pay a little bit more to get good quality and support their local farmer.”

Really it all comes back to the connections people are making, whether that’s produce to consumer or another pairing. Any conversation about what local farmers are creating is a good one.

“Whenever I go out and talk to people they obviously love telling me stories about new people they’ve come across,” Sarah says excitedly.

“The other day I was out and someone said, ‘Do you know of this person that grows shiitake mushrooms or this person that grows walnuts?’ There are all these amazing stories and we’re just going to work our way around and tap into those.”

Some of the events highlighting the incredible local creators and that you can discover through Eat Local Month are; Mike Juleff and Max Allen for a cider masterclass at Pennyroyal Raspberry Farm, foraging for food to make a feast on with chef Luke Wakefield at Farmer’s Place and the gumboot tours which take a look at the day-to-day farmlife.

For Sarah, an event she’s looking forward to – and one that’s taken much of her time these past few months – is FEAST.

“FEAST is a moveable feast around Ravens Creek, and we’ve got some of the region’s top chefs and apprentice chefs. There’s going to be eight courses that you basically walk around this farm and every 300 metres there’ll be a stop where you meet the chef, the farmer and the wine maker all explaining their products and there’ll be eight stops around the farm to do that. The Evening Cast are coming to play at the event and we’ll be throwing in a few surprises along the trail. That’s probably one of my favourites. But there’s everything from the free events from the mini farmers day for kids, to the markets and the Otway showcase,” she says.

Aside from building connections and drawing much-deserved attention to the region, Sarah hopes Eat Local Month will inspire those “holding back” to pursue their own foodie dreams. And with initial thoughts already going in for the event’s 2017 incarnation, there are plenty of opportunities to share your creations.

For a detailed program, to purchase tickets or find out more visit:

Written by Amanda Sherring

When & Where: Various location throughout the Surf Coast – March 27 – April 30