By Pam Brook
Chair, Northern Rivers Food
‘The spectacular landscapes of our hinterland, our climate and environment, for me, make the Northern Rivers such a great place to work and live. Yes, we have great beaches, but it’s the land that nurtures us every day.’
Northern Rivers Food has such a key role to play by introducing and connecting visitors to our region through the fabulous food we grow and create here. What is Northern Rivers Food? We comprise over 180 members, who are farmers, food producers, value adders, caterers, chefs, and people in the food industry from the paddock to the plate. They grow here, produce here, and employ here.
Northern Rivers Food’s key annual consumer event, the Northern Rivers Food Harvest Festival, is all about connecting both visitors and locals with the farms and farmers who grow and produce their food.
Held in early May this year it was a terrific success, with this year’s Harvest Trail, the Harvest Autumn Fair, and individual events like our own Brookfarm on-farm breakfast attracting sold-out crowds from around the region and across the border.
With 15 varied events stretching over 12 days, the 2019 Harvest Festival really highlighted how increasingly popular agri-tourism experiences like cellar-door and farm-gate visits, food trails, workshops, and classes are becoming.
This year we showcased more than 60 participating food and beverage businesses at our Harvest Festival. A particular focus was our Harvest Trail, with our region’s farms and food producers throwing open their doors, orchards and pastures to locals and visitors for a true behind-the-scenes experience. We received great reports of people getting their hands dirty on farms, learning about organic growing practices, checking out local coffee, avocado, macadamia, and pecan plantations and even absorbing tips on artisan handmade chocolate making!
We see enormous potential for building a sustainable food industry by assisting the development of on-farm and off-farm food and beverage businesses as tourism experiences and building and promoting the Northern Rivers Food Trail.
Many participants at the Harvest Festival were day trippers from southeast Queensland, and as our Festival success grows, we will grow our clean green food bowl reputation both nationally and internationally.
We’ve been talking with the NSW government about investing in the Northern Rivers as a premier food tourism region and they are keen to support us.
Our farmers are the stewards of our land – building our region’s food reputation with both visitors and locals helps preserve our agricultural land and environment.