THE Tweed's food industry received a welcome boost this week with the launch of a new initiative, Tweed Fresh, aimed at developing new growth opportunities and establishing 'paddock to plate' networks.
The initiative is funded by business marketing body Destination Tweed and coordinated by the Caldera Institute, and represents a collaboration between local farmers, producers, chefs and consumers.
"Essentially, the goal of Tweed Fresh is to support and develop a local Tweed food system," Destination Tweed CEO Bill Tatchell said.
"This will encompass a wide range of initiatives, including enhancing the supply and distribution networks from local growers to local end-users, whether they be consumers buying Tweed grown fruits and vegetables to use in their own kitchens or cafes and restaurants featuring Tweed produce on their menus."
Co-owner of Mavis' Kitchen at Mount Warning, Peter Clark said he was delighted to be involved.
"It's a great way to showcase the wonderful produce in the valley," Mr Clark said.
"As a matter of course, we use local and organic produce in our restaurant, in an effort to minimise food miles and to ensure our guests enjoy the freshest produce available."
Mr Tatchell said the process could involve education, information and promotion of seasonal local produce and might include an accreditation system identifying local produce through a 'Tweed Fresh Logo' or use web-based information on seasonal supplies and outlets.
"We really want to create a mind-set among local shoppers and food outlets whereby they actively seek out and purchase locally grown produce, that they know what's in season and know where to buy the freshest supplies".
The initiative would also build on the emerging reputation of local food experiences as a tourist attraction and involve the development of food trail itineraries.
The Tweed Fresh project could also include an annual food-focused festival or event as well as broad-based collaborative marketing and PR opportunities.
The initiative formalised the partnership between Destination Tweed, the Caldera Institute, Murwillumbah and District Business Chamber and local producers and businesses which resulted in the establishment of the weekly Caldera Farmers Market.
Tweed Fresh would take the partnership to a new level where a strategic, fully coordinated approach encompassing all aspects of the region's food sector could be adopted.
"Ultimately, it is all about expanding the income potential and employment prospects for everyone involved, from our farmers, distributors and food retailers through to farm workers, restaurant attendants and food store staff," Mr Tatchell said.