North Canterbury dynamo Angela Clifford is the driving force behind Eat New Zealand (Eat NZ).
The collective, formerly known as ConversationNZ, includes some of New Zealand’s best chefs, food producers, writers, event organisers and tourism businesses whose aim is to put New Zealand food on the world table.
They also want to create a food culture, give respect to the food we have and build a sustainable future.
Angela, who is a Waipara food grower, farmer, wine company director, and wild food forager, was appointed Eat NZ’s chief executive last year.
She was shoulder tapped for her new role by Eat NZ founder Giulio Sturla, owner and chef of award-winning Lyttelton restaurant Roots, because of work she was already doing in her own community promoting North Canterbury food, wine and craft beer.
Since her appointment huge strides have been made towards promoting New Zealand food globally.
An Eat NZ executive committee consisting of high-profile people from New Zealand’s food and beverage industry has been established, a symposium was held at Wellington on a Plate in August to announce the Eat New Zealand name change, and a website is being created with support from an Auckland International Airport tourism fund and a strategic partnership with the Restaurant Association of New Zealand.
“Traditionally New Zealanders have been exporters but we haven’t realised the opportunity to bring people here to experience our food and beverages, which can be enjoyed in a spectacular setting, Angela says.
Innovative food, wine and beer producers in the Waipara Valley have already tapped into this market with an increasing number of food and drink tourists visiting the area.
However, Angela is hoping the Eat NZ website will help attract more culinary tourists to North Canterbury and other areas of New Zealand.
Hurunui District Mayor Winton Dalley has played a significant role in promoting North Canterbury as a food and wine tourism hot spot, she says.
“I have always found him to be hugely supportive of anything we are trying to do.”
Her own role promoting the area has also been significant as the co-founder of the NZ Summer of Riesling and a board member of Pinot Noir NZ.
She was also the Canterbury representative for the NZ Sommeliers and Wine Professionals Association and originally set up the Barossa Farmers Market, was vice-chair of the NZ Farmers Market Association and founded Waipara Valley NZ, the Forage North Canterbury, Lamb and Pinot Dinner and Truffle Day Out wine and food events.
She also co-owns a community supported agriculture (CSA) property The Food Farm, in Broomfield, Waipara Valley, with her husband Nick Gill, who is general manager for Greystone and Muddy Water wineries.
The Food Farm is a 6.4-hectare permaculture property run on an organic, sustainable and self-sufficient model, which focuses on integrating animals into the farm.
The couple has transformed the property from a bare paddock, with only one tree when they bought it about 12 years ago, into a high-functioning organic small farm which “sustains us, our three children (Ruby, Matilda and Flynn), a constant supply of Wwoofers, a menagerie of animals, and a small community of CSA members,” she says.
“The Food Farm is our turangawaewae, (Maori term for our place to stand).
“This is where we feel empowered and connected. This is our home,” she says.
They share the farm with meat and egg chickens, Pekin ducks, sheep, a milking cow (Cacao) and a sow called Pjrk, who is looking for a beau.
“So if you know any Canterbury heritage-breed boars who like girls with curves, the free-range organic life with plenty of fresh greens, brewery mash and cows milk, hit us up,” Angela says.
They also hold workshops to demonstrate how even small farms can be highly productive and do not always have to become lifestyle blocks with large areas of manicured grass.