Agritourism business development program participant: Long Table Cafe
ON-FARM RESTAURANT | PADDOCK TO PLATE PRODUCE | FARM TOURS
Kathy Smits begins her day milking goats and harvesting veggies from the garden – she’s living out her dream, retiring from nursing to build and run a restaurant on the family farm, serving delicious meals made from home-grown produce.
The Smits’ Long Table Cafe opened in 2010 – an authentic Paddock to Plate experience in NSW Riverina. Here Kathy and husband Lawry authentically meld old-fashioned country-hospitality, generously- portioned meals and an opportunity for visitors to spend a little time immersed in their farm life.
The cafe dream was initially small and simple, then, says Kathy, it evolved and blossomed under the guidance of Rose Wright and her Riverina Tourism on the Land program.
“We’d had a plan for this restaurant for a while, but Rose really set us up, broadening our approach to give the business greater stability. We could have just kept small but she gave us a different perspective, looking outside the box with a bigger, more exciting, vision. She’d come with all these ideas and my mind would just go wow. It was brilliant. She gave us the confidence to think big. Then she gave us the confidence to jump in and do it. We now regularly serve 50 people in a sitting, we do tours of the farm, we teach school kids to cook and we cater for large occasions offsite.”
The business employs Kathy, Lawry and two casual helpers.
“The program really helped us see value in what we already had in place – the paddock to plate concept and how our lifestyle might be fascinating to those who visit. We’ve always been self-sufficient – we grow 90% of what we serve – the garden greens, tomatoes, pumpkin, water melon, corn and whatever else is in season. We make everything on our platter – the salami, the roast quince, the soft goat’s cheese, the preserves and then the pork for the main meal. Rose helped us also put ourselves into the product. People are intrigued by how we live and why we’ve chosen to do this. They love to try their hand at milking the goats, to pick produce and to make cheese. Quite often I have to ring the bell just to get them all to come in to eat.”
Kathy says the program encouraged her and Lawry to carefully study their target market, creating a business plan which also considered some of their challenges: “we’re 22km from town so we decided to offer a courtesy bus to groups of more than 20 people. It’s a safety thing, so people don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, but it’s also been really fun: the party begins when you get on the bus.
The program showed us how to grab tools like that.
How do we get the people here. I remember her saying make best friends with your local tourism groups. Now they are sending us buses. It’s really good and they’ve also bought out journalists, who’re helping to spread the message.
Kathy says she gets particular satisfaction from showing groups of school children where their food comes from and how to cook a meal: “we set up lots of different things for the kids to do – harvesting herbs and greens for the salad, collecting eggs, milking the goats, making a simple cheese, and then the main part of the meal: breaking down a chicken to make herbed chicken, which they then cook in our wood-fired oven. And we hand-make the pasta. Then we all sit down to eat a very special meal. The kids love it. They take home a cookbook and lots of goodies.”
In line with the teachings of the course, the Smits continue to regularly seek out opportunities to introduce their food to a fresh audience: “we’re loving catering for the local footy club once a month and
we have even been invited to cater at parliament house – Susan Leahy asked us to showcase our food, with people coming up for a tasting, loving it and taking a brochure. They’re such great ideas for getting ourselves out there.”
Kathy says the journey from dream to reality continues to inspire her and Lawry “The program opened up our horizons in a huge way. Through the paddock to plate program we’re hoping to work with some big names. Rose promotes all those things, and she’s right when she says “hell yeah, of course you can do that. What a scary step. It’s the knowing can we do it, then the excitement kicks in. I still often flick through the program workbook to reground and re-evaluate how we’re going.
KEY PROGRAM OUTCOMES
Creation of Long Table Café – Paddock to Plate meals, farm experience, school groups, interest groups, event catering
Investment – $60k+ with significant in-kind input for ongoing farm and product development
Jobs – business has created two full-time and several part-time jobs