Andrew Hearne – Near River

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A desire to produce quality organic produce and some keen business skills have led local business, Near River Produce, to diversify in some interesting and delicious ways …

Tell us a little about your property, Near River.

Near River is a 22 acre farm on the banks of the Pappinbarra River, 15 km west of Beechwood in the Hastings Valley hinterland.

We moved here a little over four years ago from Sydney to set up an organic market farm, and slowly but surely we have been doing that.

Previously, the property had been used as a hobby farm – which was good for our plans, as the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides had been very minimal. This also ensured the soil was in fairly good shape – full of worms and other organisms – perfect for growing great plants.

What are some of the main crops you have grown over the years?

Our main crop is garlic, which seems to do well here in the valley, and we also have a large rhubarb crop, which we primarily use in two items in our preserve range, a Rhubarb, Lime + Ginger Compote and a Rhubarb Paste.

We also grow a range of seasonal vegetables, including asparagus, zucchini, pumpkin, lettuce, beetroot, beans, snow peas, and an ever increasing number of salad greens – mizuna, tatsoi, endive, mustard greens, chicory.

The other ‘crop’ that we are known for are our superb free range chook eggs, that our flock of Australorp and Isa Brown hens provide.

Recently you have really expanded the garlic crops and now supply a prominent Sydney Restaurant. How did that come about?

Our online listing with the Australian Regional Food Guide had the chefs at Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar and Grill in Sydney track us down, and after being suitably impressed with our garlic, we now supply them on a weekly basis.

It is really good to see an increasing number of producers of quality foodstuffs from the Mid North Coast being recognised and sought after to supply some of the country’s leading restaurants.

We also sell garlic online at our farmgate shop, and through our stall at the region’s markets at Laurieton, the Port Foreshore and Gladstone.

You opened up the farm to foodies in October for the event Breakfast in the Beds. What was the feedback like, and are you planning more events?

Not only foodies, but anyone who is interested in how and where their food is grown and by whom. Breakfast in the Beds was our first paddock to plate event, and it was a real success.

We had 65 people under a large marquee enjoying freshly harvested citrus, asparagus, spinach and eggs that they had just collected and handed to the chefs to prepare for their breakfast. It was a great day, and from that came requests to do it again.

So, on March 3 we’ll be having Meals in the Fields – a dinner for 50 featuring four courses of sumptuous local produce partnered with fine wine and craft beer. Once again, we’ll be in the paddock, and there’ll be a string quartet serenading in the background.

And the same team will be in the kitchen – Eric and Geoff from The Other Chef Fine Foods and Todd from The Corner Restaurant.

Bookings are available at www.mealsinthefields.com

What does your Hinterland boxes concept involve?

We are passionate about local food, and the importance of providing nutrient dense produce to our wider community.

Any plant starts losing its goodness the moment its harvested. With our Hinterland Food Boxes, what we deliver to your door was growing in the ground the day before, not shipped in from Queensland or stored in some cold store for a week or two.

Along with produce from our farm, you’ll also receive vegetables from six or seven other growers, all within the Hastings catchment. Some of our range at the moment includes potatoes from Comboyne, avocadoes from Telegraph Point, beans and pumpkins from Bellangary, and Asian greens, capsicum, and beetroot from growers at Rollands Plains, who are all certified organic or in conversion.

You order online each Tuesday at www.hinterlandfoodbox.com and your box is delivered on Thursday evening. It’s just like the farmers’ market that comes to your door.

Thanks Andrew.

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