It was a happy accident landing in Bundaberg for trained chef and career foodie Suzie Clarke.
Rich in vibrant volcanic soil and 15 minutes from the sea, the Bundaberg Region harvests more than 25 per cent of Australia’s produce.
Today, Suzie’s business Bundy Food Tours is opening up those farm-gates, inspired by her 30-year global hospitality career as a chef, business owner and educator.
And it’s a real breakthrough for the Bundaberg community that’s traditionally modest about its agricultural might.
In fact, the long-time local only discovered its breadth assisting Bundaberg Tourism as part of her master studies in Le Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomic Tourism.
WHY TOUR BUNDABERG’S FARMS?
Fortuitously for Bundy Food Tours, Bundaberg is surrounded by farms.
“The distance between farms is ideal from a tour perspective. It’s not too far from one farm gate to get to the next,” Suzie explains.
Tours comprise floriculture farms, orchards and groves, cane fields and fruit and vegetable plantations—varying in focus and according to the time of the year.
Tahitian limes, sunflowers, macadamia nuts are just some of the crops tourist will see.
On an average tour, guests will visit six different farm sites in small groups no greater than 11. And the tours usually involve whatever the farmer is doing and where guests’ interests lay.
“Mostly, the experiences are behind the scenes. People are literally seeing the day in a life of an Australian farmer,” Suzie explains.
She says there is always something different going on.
“One week they might be pruning. The next they may be tending multiple crops, depending on the time of year.
“Most rotate crops, in fact, all our farmers talk about soil health. So there is a range of things happening all the time.”
Bundaberg’s agricultural industry is buoyant and you’ll often see three generations on the farm.
“They’re listening to what their children are saying … getting involved in technology and tourism … so their kids can come home.”
She’s shy about taking some of the credit, but admits that since introducing groups to the farms, many have morphed into fully-fledged agritourism businesses.
“Farmers are allocating more lawn space where customers can sit and eat home-made ice-cream or buy coffee,” Suzie explains.
Technology within the packing sheds is also advancing and operators are sharing their knowledge with tour guests and their neighbouring farmers with great candour.
Whether they’re exporting abroad, up and down the East Coast or into elite stores, the producers involved in the Bundaberg farm tours happily answer just about any question.
“I had some beef producers [guests] describe the tour as life changing, having that unique chance hear what’s going on.
“Collectively, after half a day touring, you realise how special it is to have spent time gaining insight into so many businesses,” Suzie explains.
In fact, Suzie admits their combined knowledge helped shape her own marketing strategy.
“I’ve learnt so much. And locals who visit farms always leave with a sense of pride.”
A GOOD EDUCATION
Suzie’s affinity with the farming community doesn’t stop with the Bundaberg farm tours.
Between tours, she teaches cookery part-time at a state school, preparing culinary curiosities such as dragonfruit salsa and sweet potato ice-cream.
[as it turns out, you can make just about anything from sweet potato].
The farmers supply the produce, which helps generate interest in what’s happening in the region.
“Not all our students are farmers. Some aren’t always aware. It’s great to walk into class and say ‘do you know it grows here?’”
“It’s a win-win situation,” Suzie says.
Many of Suzie’s customers who have returned, find themselves lingering longer in Bundaberg.
She says you can always rely on the locals for advice on their favourite dining haunts.
In fact, she’ll happily throw in a good word for Tinaberries, which offers strawberry picking at this time of year.
“Our winter is like a European summer.”
Cha Cha Chocolate run by chocolatier is also worth a stop and if you’re into ‘tipple tourism’ there’s plenty in Bundaberg with a cider house, brewery and a few distilleries.
- My town, Bundaberg
- Holiday parks in the Bundaberg Touring Region