Food For Thought: Cooloola Farmers Trail
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to get your food from paddock to plate take a drive along the Cooloola Farm Trail. Matt Golinski takes us on a Slow Food tour through the region.
When we pick up a punnet of strawberries at the supermarket and pop them in the trolley it’s easy to forget what it took to get them there.
We don’t generally consider who germinated the plants at the nursery; who prepared the rows at the farm and got those plants into the soil; who got up before sunrise every morning to work their way along the rows, selectively picking the ripe red fruit and sending it into the packing shed where other people gently place them into their punnets, all before they are driven to the shops for us to conveniently purchase.
It’s easy to take the food we buy for granted, that is until we have an opportunity to visit a working farm and see exactly what’s involved in getting that produce from the ‘paddock to the plate’.
For the past couple of years, a group of likeminded producers in the Cooloola region, west of Gympie, have created exactly that experience, welcoming people onto their farms over weekends in May and August to give them an insight into their businesses and their lives.
The Cooloola Farm Trail consists of six very different producers, all within 10 minute’s drive of each other, and on the weekend of 7 and 8 August, they will throw open the farmgates for guests to visit any or all of the farms over the weekend and stay as long as they like at each.
As well as wanting to provide a great day out for people of all ages who have an interest in food and agriculture, the members have an opportunity to educate their visitors on what steps they are taking to follow the Slow Food principles of good, clean, fair food and encourage them to consider those principles when they are making choices about how and what they eat.
The itinerary includes a visit to the tiny Kin Kin State School in Noosa’s hinterland, a very successful example of a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden school. Growing good chemical-free food, learning how to cook it well and enjoy the sharing and conversations around eating has become an important part of this school’s curriculum that it is widely regarded as a blueprint for other schools to follow.
From worm farms and beehives to picking and serving the vegetables they’ve grown from seeds; the kids proudly show you around with expert knowledge.
The trail also includes a family run coffee plantation where you can see the process of how those bright red beans get magically transformed into a rich dark brew.
Noosa Black is the Noosa region’s only commercial coffee farm. Walk amongst the trees with a cup in your hand and learn about what’s involved in making your 100%-local latte.
Geoff and Zelda at Purity Essential Oils grow native botanicals on their property and turn them into liquid gold to use in their skincare products and handmade soaps. See the fascinating process of turning these powerful healing trees into a pure organic essence.
Learn all about Queensland’s very own native nut at Lindols Macadamias, taste your way through all the different flavours of the nuts Sandra roasts right there on the farm, and indulge in one of her famous macadamia biscuits, cakes or slices in a little café surrounded by the orchard.
David and Jeanette Wilson teach the fine art of grafting and propagation at Rossmount Nursery and Rural Retreat, where they tend to a range of exotic fruit trees that are an important part of the region’s food production.
And finally, Cooloola Berries offers families the chance to walk through ravishing rows and experience the joy of picking and eating a strawberry straight off the bush. They also have plenty of food and drink options, including berry ciders, cheese platters, burgers, and at lunchtime Jason brings out the big paella pans and cooks up a feast to feed the hungry masses.
All the farms involved invite other local producers to join them and showcase their wares over the weekend, so there’s plenty to keep you interested and entertained across all six locations.
Food is the thing that connects us all, and the more we understand about how it’s produced and the people behind it, the more likely we are to show it the respect it deserves and the less likely we are to waste it.
Whether you’re eight or 80, a trip through the Cooloola Farm Trail is bound to leave you relaxed, inspired, educated and very full.
It’s food for thought in the truest sense of the phrase.
Cooloola Farmers Trail, 7 and 8 August. This is a FREE self-drive event however, you can register your interest to assist the farmers to plan as well as receive the latest updates.