Macleay Valley Food Bowl (Part 1)
Landing in the evening at Port Macquarie airport, I was immediately taken back to holidays spent with my cousin who grew up there. While I couldn’t see a lot along the way as we headed inland, there was a noticeable change in the longer and lumpier roads. I joined the group of chefs after they’d had dinner and a few drinks after a whole heap of wonderful experiences throughout the day. We arrived at the campsite in the dark of the night; each bell tent was warmed with its own tiny lantern. You could sense there was considerable land and property surrounding us, and it felt as though we were reasonably high up, but the darkness was somewhat disorienting.
After entering our gorgeously glammed tents by Flourish Tents and Events, complete with high queen mattress, food and lifestyle magazines, fairy lights and a beautiful homely collection of colourful rugs and blankets, we dropped our bags and put on another layer of clothing. After a busy few weeks, sitting down on a log by the fire with a drink and a whole stack of likeminded individuals for a chat felt heavenly.
Chase that up with one of the cosiest sleeps ever, to be gently woken up by the soft ‘moos’ of the family cows and distant animals and birds. No traffic, no machinery, just nature in all its glory. Bit of a read in bed and a slow motion get ready for the day and out the tent I went. The fire was still crackling, delicious. I hadn’t been away with a bunch of chefs and food industry experts before, but one of the wonderful things about them is, they’re all happy to pitch in, cook for one another and eat together, joyfully. Breakfast was already on the go, local, nitrate-free, free-range bacon sizzling atop the most incredible cook top, purpose built by the co-owner of Sweet Water Farm (stay tuned for Part 3) for this very occasion – what a legend!
Fried eggs with lush and warm, coloured yolks went straight on to the hot plate, while hungry hands and bellies helped themselves to the crispy bacon. Local cheeses, milks and rich creamy butter hand delivered by Norco’s Mike Jeffery made those morning toasties and coffees a little richer and ever so satisfying. It’s always inspiring to hear someone speak so passionately about what they do, their awesome produce and their connection to the community and the land. Some Norco dairy made its way back home with all of us to enjoy for the week ahead – what a treat.
It was such a joy to consume my breakfast, every flavour rich and locally produced mouthful, while saying g’day to the cows and fresh calf who roused me earlier that morning. A bacon-loving dog took care of any dropped breakfast materials, patiently waiting until given permission to ‘clean up’. There’s something about a farm dog, so loyal, so obedient, so friendly, so gentle and very smart. I always live through other people’s dogs; we don’t have our own yet, not until we have gates to keep them safe.
Bellies full, brains alert we headed onward to our first producer, come back here to watch Part 2 at Macleay River District Fishermen’s Co-op.
I find that its sometimes a little challenging to locate our producers, and sometimes proximity prevents it too – this tour allowed me to see and connect with a whole bunch all at once. If you’d like to go on a similar tour, whether you’re an industry professional or a really keen food fan who wants to know more and connect with our farmers, head on over to Straight to The Source where Tawnya Bahr and Lucy Allon will be able to give you all the details on this tour and so many more. They’re a wealth of knowledge and their passion for educating and empowering our greater community, to connect us with the source of our food is truly moving.