Flame Hill Vineyard and Restaurant.
Flame Hill Vineyard and Restaurant. Nicky Moffat

Farmers, foodies learn about crafting their stories

IN a cosy, wine barrel-lined venue overlooking the spectacular Flame Hill Vineyard in Montville, 40 people from food and agriculture businesses discussed how to best capture their product's story.

The life story of food - from paddock to plate - is one that captures peoples' imaginations and can be a powerful marketing tool, the Food and Agribusiness Network audience heard.

Flame Hill Vineyard and Restaurant owner Tony Thompson spoke about his unique business, where an on-farm restaurant relies on beef from cattle at the same property and produce grown on site.

"People get captivated for the fact that it is our beef,” he said.

"That's our big point of difference.

"These days you are almost organically unique ... by just being authentic about what you're doing.”

His own market garden and "Chook Hilton” produce a "huge amount of produce” that's used in his kitchen.

"We put our guinea fowl through the kitchen. They go to an abattoir and come back to us,” he said.

"It's a huge amount of work but it's worth it.”

His most interested customers were those who didn't necessarily shop in a supermarket, he said.

"A consumer who probably seeks out food and wine, and wants to know where it comes from - wants to know where its food comes from - that's the market we're catering for.

"That's the essence of provenance in food and wine.”

Mr Thompson said he was working hard to improve his soils, with the help of a soil expert, to improve his land's productive capacity.

What he couldn't grow himself he used bought within the local region, he said.

For Flame Hill, "local” means south-east Queensland.

Its winery, bottling plant and second vineyard was in Lyra near Stanthorpe.

Customers loved hearing about the differences between each of the wines - where and how they were grown and how that influenced flavour, he said.

Flame Hill has learned that the story of its ingredients is a more powerful marketing tool than the superficial characteristics such as size.

"We have small, unfashionable apricots,” Mr Thompson said. "But the flavour is delightful.”

He said it was a shame that many heirloom products were no longer available commercially.

"They've all been pushed sideways. They've all been sacrificed - it's all about longevity and physical appearance.

"It's amazing to think it, but stone fruit is almost extinct on the Granite Belt at the moment. So we're putting in heirloom varieties.”

A small orchard at the Lyra property had 100-year-old fig trees and the fruit would be ripe by Christmas.

"The flavour is amazing and they're the size of small apples,” he said.

The audience were members and guests of FAN, a not-for-profit organisation founded in December 2015 that aims to see the Sunshine Coast region's productive capacity double by 2030.

For more information visit www.foodagribusiness.org.au


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