You may have heard the term ‘paddock to plate’ before. The trend has caught fire across Australia over the past few years, and it’s opening up new possibilities for consumers and farmers alike.
What is it?
Paddock to plate refers to the Australian food scene that focuses on quality, sustainability and local produce. It’s partially a reaction to large supermarkets and manufactured food that divorces the eater from the source of the food, and seeks to build those connections anew.
Increasingly, Australians want to know where their food comes from and how it was grown, raised or created. Australia’s farmers and artisan producers are responding to that demand in a number of ways, from high end restaurants who serve produce from their own gardens to farm-gate sales of freshly butchered meat.
While the trend is a boon for consumers, it’s also great for the farmers themselves. New technology, increased awareness and online sales allow producers to bypass the supermarkets and sell direct. That helps their profit margins, as they’re not losing a proportion to the wholesaler or retail outlet. It also allows them to set their own prices. For smaller enterprises who can’t economise on scale, being able to compete on quality instead can mean the difference between a profitable concern and a failed dream.
Here are some of the ways the paddock to plate movement is helping consumers and producers alike.
From the first farmers’ market in Victoria in 1999, these regular events are now popping up across the country. Farmer’s markets are open to both primary producers and other artisan offerings, allowing shoppers to buy locally raised beef, seasonal fruit and vegetables and handcrafted cheeses all in one place. As the producers attend themselves, it’s a great way for shoppers to ask questions about the provenance of their food, such as whether it’s organic, the conditions under which animals are raised, and other information. It also cuts down on food miles, with produce being sold near where it was made instead of shipped across the country.
Farm gate and direct sales
If you want to get even closer to the action, many producers offer farm gate sales. These range from pre-packaged meat from livestock producers to pick-your-own fruit options at orchards. If you really want to see where your food comes from, this is the option for you. For producers, it’s an excellent way to build brand loyalty and show consumers where the quality and taste really comes from.
Direct sales is an option that’s opened up possibilities for small-scale meat producers. With an increasingly savvy consumer base and improvements in online technology, it’s simpler than ever to offer an online option where buyers can select the cuts they want and receive them at the door.
Producers welcome the option both because it allows them to keep overheads low and because it accesses a whole new market. They can control the price of their meat instead of accepting what supermarkets offer, and decide where and to whom it goes.
Classes and workshops
For consumers who want to do more than see where their food comes from, there’s a range of educational offerings as well. Some small scale producers are adding value to their businesses by opening up their properties for farm stays. There, urban dwellers can learn how to milk cows, shear sheep or harvest fruit as part of their break.
Cooking lessons are another way that some primary producers can diversify. Let guests gather their own produce from your gardens and then make a simple meal, and you’ve got a market edge that guarantees repeat business.
The interest in locally produced, high quality food shows no sign of waning. So if there’s an apple orchard you have your eye on, or you want to plunge into that permaculture experiment, now is an ideal time.