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October 4, 2022

Native food pioneer: 20 years at Byron Farmers Market

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Anthony Hotson of Rainforest Foods at Bangalow Farmers Market.

Local farmer Anthony Hotson is considered a pioneer of native food in the Northern Rivers. When the former arts student made a career change back in 1995 and become a farmer, he decided to follow a less trodden path.

After spending time in Central America working with the National Biodiversity Institute, which was looking for useful and edible species in local rainforests, Anthony was inspired to do something similar back in Australia.

However, when he first started growing native food plants – such as Davidson’s plum, lemon myrtle, aniseed myrtle and finger limes – on his farm at Tuckombil over 25 years ago, there was little awareness of traditional bush foods.

‘Native food was such a new market at the time that there was a real lack of understanding about it,’ Anthony said. ‘Back then, it was difficult to find a market for these products. I could spend all my time trying to get native food on the menu [of local restaurants] and not make anything from it.’

A turning point for Anthony – and his Rainforest Farmer Foods – was the birth of Byron Farmers Market in 2002, of which he was a founding member. Not only did the farmers market open up his opportunity for sales, but it also offered a platform to educate people about native foods in general.

‘The market was great for educating people about local native foods,’ he said. ‘Prior to that, there was really no access to them.’

Today is a totally different story, with a real focus – both by home cooks and chefs worldwide – on Australian native foods. As well as offering a unique flavour, native foods are naturally adapted to the local environment, making them an ecologically sound choice.

Anthony, who also grows macadamias, said he has seen a real appreciation of native foods grow over the past two decades, with his best-sellers being Davidson’s Plum Jam and Macadamia Nut Spread. ‘People get particularly passionate about the spread,’ he said. ‘That’s probably because it’s made from nuts that are fresh and high quality, which you don’t get in the supermarket.’

You can find the Rainforest Farmer Foods range at Byron and Bangalow Farmers Markets.

Byron Farmers Market is held every Thursday 7–11am at Butler Street Reserve and Bangalow Farmers Market is every Saturday morning 7–11am behind the Bangalow Pub. 

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