Local Food at the Ballarat Show
On Friday, Eat Local Ballarat paid a visit to the Ballarat Show. The show is in its 150th year. Like most agricultural shows Australia-wide, began as an opportunity for local farmers to come together to show off their livestock and produce. We went to see what local food offerings were on display amongst all the rides, showbags, and fairy floss.
In the main hall, Ballarat Community Garden have a fantastic display and sale of seedlings, just in time for your November planting. If you’re looking for unusual tomato varieties, BCG have the best range I’ve seen locally.
Next door, Enbom Honey were selling their honey and beeswax from their hives out at Dunnstown (just east of Ballarat). Their farm is run on permaculture principles, and they’ll be opening a farm gate shop very soon. Their stall also featured beekeeping equipment and books, and Angela and Leonie were on hand to answer any questions.
As usual the craft hall had heaps of examples of local expertise in baking and preserving, judged by the local CWA.
I also met the ladies from the Ballarat branch of the Cake Decorators Association of Victoria. They’re hosting a raffle and selling a fundraising cookbook to raise money for 3BA’s Christmas appeal. They meet regularly on Tuesday evenings and hold workshops on Saturdays, with a shared bring-a-plate meal, at the Koh-I-Noor Centre on Errard Street.
I paid a visit to the poultry shed to see the chooks and other poultry on display. I chatted to the people from the Ballarat Poultry Association (who unfortunately don’t have a website or Facebook), and asked them about how the poultry on show relates to backyard poultry for food production.
They told me that most of the show birds are “hard feather” varieties, whereas most egg-laying backyard chooks are “soft feather”. Breeders who raise birds for show are not usually very interested in food production. So if you’d like to breed poultry for competition, these are your people, but if you’re looking to produce backyard eggs you might want to look at a group like Ballarat Poultry Buy Swap & Sell instead.
In the cattle shed, I chatted to Matt Dickinson who is the farm manager at Ballarat Grammar School‘s farm at Mount Rowan (just north of Ballarat). Grammar have a comprehensive program to teach their students about sustainable food production. Their Australian Lowline cattle were entered in the show this year, and they also hosted a mozzarella making display. I’m looking forward to visiting their farm to learn more!
If you were looking for something local to eat at the show, your lunch and snack options included Zed and Co’s free range pork (sausages, egg and bacon rolls, and so forth); local favourites Forge Pizzeria and Gypsy’s Lunchbox (both mentioning local produce on their menus); and for dessert you could grab some Timboon ice-cream (from down near Warrnambool).
On Sunday, the show put on a special “Dairy Sunday” to show support for local dairy farmers. Ballarat’s favourite award-winners Inglenook Dairy were in attendance offering coffee and milkshakes, along with Goldfields Farmhouse Cheese, Timboon Ice Cream and local supermarket Ryan’s IGA who stock Inglenook and other local dairy brands.
All in all, while I was pleased to see a range of local food displays and taste some local treats at the Ballarat Show, I would love to have seen a stronger emphasis on Ballarat’s locally grown produce, artisan food producers, and agricultural heritage.
What can we do in future years to support and celebrate local agriculture at the Ballarat Show?