Farmers, food makers band together to create local market for local produce




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Roberta Schablon wants to see more local produce on menus in the South Burnett. (ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

Food producers and makers have united to put local food on the table in Queensland’s South Burnett.

As you walk through the door of the “Farm 2 Fork” shop, a large chalkboard displays a message highlighting how far the food at an average Brisbane barbecue has travelled.

The 200,000-kilometre figure is staggering, and one of the reasons chef Roberta Schablon wanted a place to be able to buy locally.

Ms Schablon is a member of the committee in the not-for-profit collective that has recently converted an empty store in the village of Wooroolin to a food market that opens twice a week.

“It came about because all of us were struggling to get local produce,” Ms Schablon said.

“We were all scratching our heads, wondering why people don’t have local produce in restaurants and cafes locally.

“We realised it’s an accessibility issue.”

Years of drought and diminishing markets for small growers also spawned the social enterprise.

The former bakery is filled with garlic, mushrooms, honey, meats and wine, all supplied by farmers in the region who are members of the collective.

They volunteer in the store so they can chat with customers about their products and increase awareness about the benefits of buying directly from the farmer.

Free range, chemical-free pork and honey producer Selina Carey is also part of the committee and volunteers in the store.

While education for consumers on the value in eating local is important to Ms Carey, it is also about quality and flavour.

“I went to my brother’s place at the Sunshine Coast and he decided to serve roast pork from the supermarket,” Ms Carey said.

“I seriously couldn’t eat it.

“I smelt it first, took one bite and pushed it aside.”

Farming can be quite isolating, with many producers working alone in remote areas.

The social enterprise has not only put food on tables, it has provided a feed for the mind as well.

Lamb producer Greg Patch enjoys the companionship and friendship of being involved in the collective, with the shop acting as a hub where locals can meet for a chat.

“For me, it’s the friendship I get from it,” Mr Patch said.

And while the mental health benefits are valuable to Mr Patch, nutritious cuisine that is locally produced remains a vital part of the collective.

“We do Australian white sheep and we sell that directly to the customer,” he said.

“So, everything we sell is sold before it goes to the butcher shop.

“Our lambs are fed on multi-mix species’ pasture, and you end up with a densely more nutritious meat.”

Becoming a ‘locavore’

The Farm 2 Fork collective has taken some inspiration from the North American “locavore” movement — in which food is sourced within a 165 kilometre radius.

While some foods can’t be easily accessed in the regional Queensland area, Ms Schablon believes it is important to keep front of mind when considering what you eat.

“We always say ‘we strive’ to utilise local,” she said.

“There are some things you just can’t get; like chocolate, maybe flour.”

Ms Schablon said collectives like Farm 2 Fork would mean less food travelling to the central markets, just to be driven back to supermarkets.

“We still have trucks going from a farm to a distribution centre just to come back to put the food in a shop,” she said.

“People need to stop and think, the food would be more nutritious and flavoursome because it is not sitting and not travelling.

“Where your food comes from is important on so many levels.

“It’s not just about your farmers, your low food miles, your nutrition — it’s about everything.”

Source: Thanks msn.com