Last week I attended the Gippsland Food Growers and Makers gathering in Warragul, which included many lively presentations from fabulous food growers in the region. It provided an incredible opportunity for everyone to learn from each other, have a chinwag and brainstorm ideas and future opportunities.
I left with my brain bursting full of wisdom from the people who keep our land nourished and our stomachs full. In the coming days I will share some of the insights they so generously shared with attendees, starting with Tamsin Carvan of Tamsin’s Table.
Tamsin lives on 113 acres of dreamy rolling hills in Poowong East, where she tends a “rambling” plot of land, has an orchard and raises animals. She admitted to travelling along the east-coast of Australia initially chasing boyfriends then jobs and eventually the best soil she could find, which led her to the fertile pastures of Gippsland.
For the past 13 years Tamsin and her family have lived almost entirely off what she grows, topping up her harvest with the fruits of growers and producers in her locale.
Although magnetically drawn to the countryside, she wasn’t born into a farming family, instead she was inspired by a deep motivation to “chase flavours” and an “intense desire to eat food the way I wanted to grow it”.
Back when she started out there wasn’t the same access to good organic food and farmers’ markets that we enjoy today, so the harsh reality was that in order to eat the way she wanted she needed to grow it herself.
This led her on the most remarkable journey and has shaped the way she lives every aspect of her life today.
As her garden began to thrive she struggled to know how to deal with the surplus food she was growing, offloading it to neighbours and friends was no longer enough. This inspired her to take the plunge and start a mini-restaurant and workshop space on site, which seats 12 people and is open from Friday-Sunday.
I have never visited Tamsin’s farm or restaurant but it sits high on my bucket list. Actually, I’m a little scared of making the trip out of fear of never wanting to return to my inner-city life. Although don’t be fooled by her magnificent Instagram feed (@tamsinstable) and the photogenic setting of her farm, I hear it’s very hard work and certainly a labour of love.
Tamsin explained that she started a restaurant because “as much as I love eating food, the thing I wanted to share most was the actual food.”
“Money can’t buy freshness and that has a taste attached to it that is a revelation for people.”
Tamsin isn’t talking about fancy degustation menus of micro herbs and food that has been cooked for 72 hours at 60 degrees then turned into a soufflé that tastes like the forest, she’s speaking of the simple pleasures derived from enabling her guests to experience a new season walnut that has been freshly shelled, or to taste fresh, local milk; Gippsland Jersey Milk to be precise.
She believes that as a food grower you sometimes take for-granted just how different home-grown food tastes, compared with the homogenised and often lacklustre produce that has been waiting in cold storage for months before it reaches the plates of eaters around the country. This difference in flavour is something that must be shared, celebrated and in turn valued by us, the eaters. This feast of the senses is exactly what Tamsin offers up in spades.
Her final insights were simple, yet so so useful. She challenged the audience to figure out what it was they were really selling, because it may not actually be as literal as the food. She implored her often camera-shy farming audience to embrace social media, to be heard and to be seen.
“Don’t hide, open your farms and show people what you do, celebrate it!”
Here at Sustainable Table we couldn’t agree more. Our local food producers should be treated like the rock stars they are. They put food on our table, they enrich our regional communities, they’re stewards of our land and they offer up so much more than the food that they sell, although that’s pretty damn awesome too.
Thank you Tamsin for imparting your wisdom in such a charming and understated way; here’s to many more events with you at the helm.
Images | Brenner Lowe