Kandanga Farm Store & Kitchen

Sustainability in limelight at luncheon

A NEW Mary Valley based venture has seen two young families collaborate in building a support network for chemical free farmers.

With a view to creating a sustainable space for producers and foodies alike, Bec Edmonds with husband Trent Kirkwood, along with Tim and Amber Scott of Bos Rural Supplies and Kandanga Farm warmly welcomed more than 180 people to Kandanga Farm last week for the annual potluck luncheon.

Supported by Sunshine Coast Foodie, Mary Valley Country Harvest Cooperative, Gympie Regional Council and Sunshine Coast Regional Food Directory, the luncheon utilised the locally grown and harvested crops from more than 45 producers across the Sunshine Coast and Mary Valley.

From ethically raised pork, lamb and beef to handmade pickles and preserves, the lunch incorporated delectable treats to suit all tastes.

“This day is about celebrating the quality and diversity of food in the region,” Tim said.

“Producers want to create a better environment and produce nutrient rich food and they want to be able to leave something for their children.”

Tim and Amber moved to the hinterland from Western Queensland 10 years ago and proudly established their Kandanga-based business BOS Rural Supplies in 2014.

“An event like this is possible here because of proximity of producers and consumers- we needed the support [numbers] from producers to be able come together like this.”

The couple are set to establish the Kandanga Farm Store in the new year which will act as a home for Bos Rural and a place where local producers can showcase their harvest which will also be used by Trent and Bec in the Kandanga Kitchen cafe.

“We are doing our part and we really want this type of event and interaction to become the ‘normal’ for rural stores,” Tim said, adding the store will also be home to a series of workshops focusing on rural skills in everything from cheese-making to leather work.

“We’re talking to Bos Rural customers to get them on board to host these workshops. It’s how we can add value to their businesses by linking them to end users."

The cafe will see the business use a closed-loop model with sustainability the major focus for Trent and Bec.

“Sustainable agriculture has always been a passion of mine and establishing the cafe next year will be our focus,” Bec added. “We wanted to be that piece of the jigsaw that connects consumers to producers through the cafe and kitchen; we want to make healthy, locally produced food accessible to everyone,” Trent said.

The budding business will see a commercial kitchen attached to the cafe so customers of the shop will be able to value add to their harvest, which will then be marketed through the cafe.

Major supporter of the Kandanga Farm Store and Kitchen is Elaine Bradley from Mary Valley Country Harvest Cooperative.

Established three years ago, the organisation aims to support small area farmers with a mixture of vegetable, fruit, meat, spices and condiment producers making up the membership.

“The work we do is based around encouraging people who want to improve things on their properties and we do that through education throughout the year, we host a two day summer school and farm visits where we elaborate and demonstrate things in action,” Elaine said.

“We concentrate on producing food without spray; that has been grown sustainably and without chemicals and really marketing that to young families which is our main bread and butter.

“We’re also mentoring our young farmers in marketing and production and trying to support people the best we can.”

Amber said the proximity to the Sunshine Coast puts the Mary Valley in a prime location for agri-tourism.

“People can visit here and see and experience the value of the area.

“We’ve come to realise there is an incredible array of diversity in terms of the produce that comes out of this area and the quality is amazing,” Amber said. “It’s mostly small scale and I think that’s really special and something we need to make the most of.

“I would love to see this area become known for its profitable, small scale enterprises that are chemical free and where everyone in the community supports everyone else and we all use each other's produce - the local B&Bs, local tourism operators talk about it and promote it and it goes around and around to produce this strong, unhomogenised economy.”

Amber said promoting the capabilities of producers in the Mary Valley was one of the goals in hosting the luncheon. “We want to focus on the ‘farm to fork’ mentality which is where Bec and Trent come into it with having a cafe filled with produce which is all locally and ethically sourced - people want that authentic connection.”

With the highest concentration of property codes in Australia and previously a proposed dam site, the Mary Valley has seen a dramatic turn-over of local residence in recent years.

“It’s a bit of a social experiment,” Tim said.

“Instead of having traditional ownership, you’ve got new people and everyone’s wanting to establish themselves and there is a big thirst for knowledge,” he said,

“There’s 8500 property codes within 150km, so there are a lot of small farms and people trying different things.”

“You go to other areas in the country and everyone is doing beef or grain but, here, there is a scattering of everything. It’s a great climate for growing a hell of a lot of different things.”

Tim said, due to the small amount of land each producer has, it has forced a more experimental type of farming, where producers are keen to explore niche and unique markets.

“The aim with the the store and kitchen is to increase consciousness about where your food comes from because, once you know where it comes from and how it’s produced, you’ll make better decisions,” Tim said.

As one passionate punter put it, ‘If you own a hospitality business, and you’re not serving locally produced food, you’re missing out.’

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