Cafes are falling over themselves to connect you with the food you eat. Plenty in West End sources its ingredients direct in an effort to foster sustainable relationships with growers and suppliers. Jerome Batton’s Sourced Grocer takes a similar approach, with much of its fresh produce originating from the Sunshine Coast, Granite Belt and Northern Rivers regions.
Perhaps the next logical step was always to take it in the other direction, allowing punters to see for themselves where their food comes from. That’s the idea behind the Food Foragers Trail, which on the first Sunday of every month sees Lockyer Valley farms open their gates to curious city slickers.
“I'm trying to teach people the value of getting out and meeting with the farmer,” explains owner of 9Dorf Farms and Food Foragers Trail participant Bronwyn Neuendorf. “I'd love it if I could teach people from the city that they can come out for a drive to the Lockyer Valley to pick up all the produce that they need.”
Bronwyn and her husband David’s aim is to make their farming as ethical and sustainable as possible, producing chicken, eggs, fish and beef on their fourth generation family-owned property.
The fish farm is perhaps the most surprising element. Inside an unassuming shed, several ponds produce 30 tonnes of Murray cod, barramundi and jade perch a year. “There is a huge shortage of seafood in the world,” Bronwyn says. “Our idea with the fish farming is we don't want to impact on our ocean supplies and we don't want to impact on our actual ocean like a lot of the caged fish farms, where the organic matter comes out and kills off the ocean beds.”
Guests coming though their aquaculture facility participate in fish feeding which is an interactive (and often wet) experience as thousands of fish fight for their feed.
The tour also includes a chance to explore 9Dorf's “back to basics” chicken production. The birds live in moveable coops, which each day are pushed to a new patch of land, to give them fresh grass and a clean environment. “They know they're about to be moved and run as we push the coop each day,” Bronwyn says. Visitors also get a chance to visit the laying hens, which are housed between three "chicken caravans". Here you collect your own organic, free-range eggs while the hens that laid them run about your feet.
Another novelty at 9Dorf is feeding the poddy calves milk from a bottle. Bronwyn also has plans to start teaching her guests traditional milking techniques. “Our farming takes time, but in the end we produce a better product,” she says. “It's the way food production should be.”
And of course, if you like what you see, 9Dorf’s meat and eggs are all available to purchase.
Other farms participating in the Food Foraging Trail include Holmwood Lavender Farm, where you can tuck into some fresh lavender scones, and Bauer's Organic Farm, which has a selection of potatoes, garlic, carrots, pumpkin and wombok for purchase during the Sunday visits. “I'm inviting people to come onto a real farm and get a box of potatoes that were just harvested,” owner Rob Bauer says. “You talk to a real farmer, get some hints and have cuppa.”
Farms participating in the Food Foragers Trail vary throughout the year. To see which are open for your visit head to foodforagerstrail.com.