Off the Top of My Head
By Paul Murray
A group of eight Karameans travelled to the Tasman region on September 26 and 27, 2018, to visit artisan food processing and production facilities in Nelson and Upper Moutere with the view to establishing similar enterprises in the Karamea region.
The idea is to leverage off our special location and unique growing environment to create a range of value-added processed food products grown here and marketed under a “Karamea” brand to create local employment, improve our economy, promote our region and enhance the resilience of our community in the process.
The tour was coordinated by Nick Dalgety, Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) Senior Advisor for Economic Development and Partnerships Nelson, the group visited cafes, the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), Little Beauties feijoa and kiwifruit processing plant, the Moutere Artisans group, Peckhams Cidery and Orchard and Thorvald Cheese to gather information and ideas, make contacts and to seek inspiration from what others are doing.
Also on the trip were Development West Coast (DWC) Business Development Manager, Helen Wilson, David Stedfast from Gloriavale Christian Community and Jane Lancaster, a food production consultant from CatalystCatalyst and Dr Joanna Fountain, Senior Lecturer in Tourism at Lincoln University.
The tour began at Deville Café where owner Geoff McLean talked us through the pitfalls and peaks of the café business and discussed how he sources and selects food products like Dobbo’s Manuka Smoked Hot Sauce (made in Westport by Dobbo) for his café, which has been operating for 15 years. Geoff shared his knowledge and experience freely and with considerable candour and served us up a pretty damn good coffee as well.
Just around the corner was the Bridge Street collective where we met with the manager Christine Donaldson, who spoke about the collective power of collaboration and cooperation in getting businesses connected and sharing their respective skills for mutual benefit. She also discussed the process of establishing a weekly market that showcases local produce and artisan products and enables producers to access customers in a cost-effective and fashion that also allows customers to meet the producers and processors of the goods on offer at the market.
Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in the provenance of their food and seeking quality products made by people passionate about their fare rather than mass-produced industrial brands and are prepared to pay a premium price of products of a high standard. The need for such products to be of premium quality was a consistent theme discussed by the presenters. The products need to be top notch to stand out in the market, create word-of-mouth promotion and encourage repeat purchases and brand loyalty from consumers.
Then it was back to school with a stop at NMIT where we met with chefs and educators who briefly outlined food-safety compliance, gave us a tour of their facilities and information about the courses and programmes they offer to do with food, food handling, processing, packaging and marketing. We then had a lovely lunch prepared and delivered to the table by hospitality students at the institute as robust discussion about food continued over lunch.
We purchased some ingredients from the market and returned to Nick Dalgety’s home near the Botanical Gardens to make pizza and cook them on his backyard pizza oven. This was also an excellent opportunity for further discussion and brainstorming about the potential for Karamea to have its own brand and range of products that add value to our raw produce and enable a higher return to the growers and food processors living in Karamea by selling our products into more affluent urban gourmet food markets.
The next day, we headed for Moutere. Our first stop was a fruit processing facility that makes Little Beauties dried feijoa, and golden kiwifruit slices dipped in chocolate…We had to sample quite a lot of these for the purpose of product research and quality assurance…Everyone agreed, the products were superb and very delicious!
Owner/Manager Tristan Wasney gave us a frank and detailed talk about the challenges of establishing such a venture and the costs and challenges involved in both producing the product and then getting it to market. We were also able to have a look at the way food handling is done on a commercial scale and also the process of preparing and packaging the final product.
The Old Moutere Post Office was the next stop. There we met with Andrew Sutherland who discussed the establishment of the Moutere Artisans, a collective of artists, food producers and craftspeople who market their wares and fares at the repurposed Old Post Office, which now has a retail shop, café and gallery that displays and sells locally made products instead of stamps and envelopes.
Cameron Woods dropped by during Andrew’s presentation and invited us for lunch at his business Tasteology at the Kahurangi Estate winery cellar door where we were treated to a fine food meal of locally produced cheese, meats, preserves and bread, well matched with wines from the Kahurangi Estate range.
Peckham’s Cidery and Orchard was our next stop, there we met owners Alex and Caroline Peckham and toured both the orchard and the cidery and had a look at the process of making, bottling and labelling their cider and how to package and market the product. Alex openly discussed the challenges of establishing an artisan brand and competing with inferior mass-produced products that are no match in quality but are cheaper on the market. He offered several means of overcoming market resistance to price and shared his frustrations about competing in a market that is somewhat price focussed. The Peckham’s Cider range is an excellent example of a quality product that is far superior to other mass-produced ciders on the market, and we had to sample quite a few cans to be sure of this.
The award-winning Thorvald Cheese was our last stop, and we caught up with our old friend Franzis Kaner, the head cheesemaker at Thorvald. Franzis walked us through the facility and showed us how their sheep’s milk cheese and yoghurt is made, the food safety procedures, quality control and the process of ageing and then packaging and marketing the products. Considerable sampling of the various cheeses was also necessary at this facility, and all agreed, their range was exceptionally good!
The participants were all very impressed, inspired and motivated by the people we met and the facilities we visited and plan to also travel to Canterbury later in the year to visit more food-processors and make additional contacts with people who may be able to assist with the process of establishing similar enterprises here in Karamea.
Each venture we visited, the speaker received a lovely gift set of True Blue Organics products from Hamish and Margaret Macbeth’s business, which demonstrates well that Karamea can produce a quality value-added product and establish a viable business here. Thanks to Hamish and Margaret (and Ema Franken for preparing the gift boxes).
The more food we can produce and process here, the more people we can employ, the more responsible we will become for our own food and financial security and the more resilient we will be in the event of a civil-defence event that takes the road out. If Karamea is able to produce its own food and have a supply of processed and preserved food in stock to cater to the needs of the local population, the better we will cope with such an eventuality.
Thank you also to Nick Dalgety from MPI for coordinating the tour, Helen Wilson from DWC for assisting. Both DPI and DWC contributed financially to defray the cost to participants of the trip, thank you for that also.