North East Tasmania is a stunning place, full of contradictions and opportunities. On the one hand it is a recognised food desert and on the other has some of the most fertile soils, and a long history of farming. Albeit often for bulk commodity export products such as carrots, potatoes and dairy that do not get sold on the local market.
In the heart of the North East shire of Dorset is the town of Derby. Historically a boom and bust mining/logging town undergoing a radical change after the building of forested mountain bike (MTB) trails in the surrounding valleys. In time it will connect to the MTB trails in the adjacent shire of Break O’Day, where the Blue Tier and soon to be constructed St Helens MTB trails are situated.
Derby recently hosted the Enduro World Series Mountain Bike competition. The only site in Australia to host this round of the tour that takes place every couple of years. This is the second time the competition landed in Derby, the first was 2016 just after the trails had opened. The changes in the town since that time are dramatic.
In 2016 there was no fresh food available in Derby, the catering for the event was essentially a bain marie of food you would not call healthy, and local food businesses specialising in locally sourced, fresh ingredients were non existent. There was not even a pub in town with a working kitchen you could get a parmie and chips!
Fast forward to EWS Derby 2019, and it’s a whole new ball game.
The festival village for the event was sponsored by local craft brewing company LIttle Rivers Brewery, who we source spent beer grain from to feed our micro-herds. Chris Carins founded and runs Little Rivers is a pioneer of the changing food and craft brew culture in the North East. Long before people were talking about the agri-tourism opportunities in the area, he and his partner started a craft beer brewery in Scottsdale. LRB is going from strength to strength, now stocked at pubs and bars across the north of Tasmania.
Real coffee and good food arrived in the area with the opening of cafes including 2 Doors Down, serving Ritual coffee roasted in Launceston, creating fresh salads and fresh foods in house using Tasmanian produce, while feeding their kitchen scraps into our farming system. Quality sourdough and pastries from Manu Bread is now available , we use the stale bread and offcuts to feed the microherds …they like their carbs!
Added to this, an exciting specialist events and catering focused on using local fresh ingredients has burst onto the scene. Trailhead Food Co owned and run by power house couple Jules and Mark Cornish, is a game changer for those looking for food that delivers on taste, nutrition and is presented with an eye for detail. Mark (a trained chef) and Jules put insects on the menu at the EWS village via their Greek inspired menu, as well as cooking up free tastings of garlic, coriander and sea salt crickets to introduce people to edible insects. The perfect introduction to freshly cooked, whole and delicious edible insects, grown in the North East. On top of creating an outstanding menu, Trailhead Food Co also pass on their vegetable kitchen prep scraps for our microherds to feast on. Talk about closing the loop!
Being a food desert means that access to fresh, healthy, affordable food is a problem for many. In late March the Derby Providore and General Store opened it’s doors under new ownership. Stocking fresh food, essential provisions, locally made treats, and Rebel Food Tasmania Protein Plus Peanut and Cricket Butter, aka P.C.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this for residents, and visitors, to the local area. For so long it has not been possible to purchase something as simple as a pumpkin, a bag of apples or even a bottle milk which is sadly ironic for being in an area with a lot of dairy farms. John Brakey, the new owner of the Derby Providore, has a commitment to building the local community which includes employing people from the area, supplying fresh, healthy food that is affordable, while supporting local emerging businesses including Rebel Food Tasmania. Thanks John!
Food and culture are intertwined. North East Tasmania is experiencing a rapid change in our food culture and many people are waking up to how much potential this beautiful part of the world has for eco-tourism, adventure based tourism, and to embrace quality food businesses.
The Rebel Food Tasmania approach is about working to a local food economy model, using food stuffs usually thrown out to feed our insects. Working with quality local food businesses and chefs to offer nutrient dense, delicious edible insects. While showcasing a new way of farming and making food that closes the loop as much as possible, and collaborates with culture changers.
It’s an exciting time to be a upstart, startup farmer in a far flung corner of Tasmania.