"If you're gonna dream, then dream big," says Grazing Down The Lachlan's committee member Penelope McGufficke.
For a food festival to sell out in only four days is pretty impressive, but to do this in only its second year since inception simply speaks volumes to the heart and soul of this one-of-a-kind festival.
Welcome to Wiradjuri Country
Under the creative direction of chef and The Chefs' Line judge, Mark Olive, his vibrant menu is the catalyst for celebration as local producers and Indigenous ingredients come together at seven food stations spread along 2.1 km of a stock route by the Lachlan River in Forbes in Central West NSW.
As 850 people set out along the trail, the event is staffed and supported by volunteers (and passionate ones at that). "It's about bringing the culture and food of the Wiradjuri people and cultivating a positive relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people," says Grazing's chair, Wendy Muffet.
"It's about healing and being a part of something bigger, something that tells the Indigenous story in a unique way and brings everyone together over food," exclaims Mark Olive at the Q&A evening that kicked off the weekend.
While Grazing raises funds for the Somewhere Down the Lachlan sculpture trail (a project set to showcase the history, culture and creativity of the town of Forbes), it was actually returning to the trail on Sunday evening, after the weekend's events, that had Team Grazing so excited - to pick up their bins. #notjoking
"We [Team Grazing] kept asking and questioning ourselves frequently about what we actually needed to make this event work," says McGufficke. "We had to keep ourselves and each other in check and be accountable for everything from the food to the logistics as well as the waste while thinking about the impact this kind of event would have on the land."
Sustain and sustainability
Who knew bed sheets, curtains and tablecloths could be such a hospitality dream? Team Grazing did, as those three ‘Rs’ - reduce, reuse and recycle - play a big part in bringing the Forbes community and its surrounds together. While Team Grazing were sent to source the glassware and crockery for the event, all the forks were donated by Qantas.
On arrival, you’ll instantly be greeted with your own kit - one plate, one fork, one wine glass, one napkin and one hand-sewn bag (made from off-cuts and recycled materials) – everything you need to get you through the trail. All of these items are then returned at the end to be washed and packed away for next year’s event.
This year, there was one wheelie bin of waste (one!). One-third of that wheelie bin was composted and the other two-thirds was actual rubbish (stuff people bought with them) that was left after the event... not too shabby for an event that hosted 850 people!
One of the key aspects of Grazing is, "if it wasn't directly grown here, it had to be able to be cultivated within the Lachlan region or surrounding," says committee member Penny Rout.
Mark Olive explains the importance of celebrating and combining local flavours on this menu. "There is an abundance around us and it’s important to use local ingredients and also educate people about the native flavours of the Lachlan region," he says.
While keeping an eye on wastage has been front of mind, so too has minimising the impact on the trail and environment itself. No industrial ovens or stoves that require electricity are used and the event has been set up to require minimal electrical intervention, with only one of the stations utilising a generator. At each of the seven stations, you'll find buckets filled with hundreds of seed balls. Think twice before you dive in and snack on them like a bliss ball, they're not for consumption but for regeneration. Made of native seeds, you grab a ball, toss it out onto the stock route, and crush it into the soil to help regenerate the footprints made during the day.
Along with the produce, the land and its history, it's the groovers and shakers of Team Grazing - all the unpaid volunteers from the region that donate their time and support - that make this festival run without a hitch from whoa to go.
We simply can't wait to see what Team Grazing has in store against the Lachlan backdrop in 2019.
SBS Food is a proud media partner of Grazing Down the Lachlan. You can read about last year's event here, peruse this year's behind-the-scenes social snaps right here. And if you're as excited about the next one as we are, then save the date! The next Grazing Down the Lachlan will be held on the weekend of 21 September, 2019.