Grow Your Own festival feeds appetite for music and local produce

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Earlier this year, Heidi Lenffer, singer and keyboardist for Sydney band Cloud Control, visited a buffalo cheese farm on the NSW mid-north coast as part of a music festival. It’s not a normal pit stop for the headline act.

“I met a certain Russian buffalo farmer,” she says. “Elena makes buffalo mozzarella cheese using southern Italian methods. She researched the most ethical method of milking them ... she hand-raised a whole herd so they know her.”

The unorthodox encounter at Bungwahl’s Burraduc Farm was part of the second Grow Your Own festival, an event created to attract music lovers to regional areas where they could also meet with and learn about local farmers. The festival, which will be held in Tuncurry, on the mid-north coast of NSW, on December 22, is run almost entirely by young, local musicians and farmers who were sick of watching from afar as major cities celebrated Australian music.

“When we see music festival line-ups, we see bold and amazing. We look up to celebrities because they’re put in that spotlight,” says Holly Rankin, the festival’s director and a singer-songwriter-producer who releases music under the name Jack River. She’s currently touring Australia, taking media calls between gigs. “There’s so much excitement about bands, but we want young people to see farmers and producers in the same light.

“It’s an experiment in bringing growers into the spotlight.” 

While Cloud Control — the festival’s headline band — was formed in the shady upper reaches of the Blue Mountains, they spent four months late last year by the waters of Charlotte Bay south of Forster-Tuncurry recording their latest album, Zone.

“We wanted to bunker down in an area that was close to the beach and somewhere we could really embed ourselves in an area for a long period of time,” Lenffer says. “Prior to that, we’d moved a lot. We wanted a long-term stay somewhere beautiful that had a lot of escapes.

“It’s serendipitous to record something so great and be invited to play at a festival, to give it back to that area in a meaningful way.”

Skegss, from Byron Bay, the Gooch Palms, from Newcastle, and Los Scallywaggs, from the mid-north coast itself, are three of the 10 acts who will join DJs for the day.

It’s estimated up to 5000 people will descend on Forster-Tuncurry’s football fields to hear local music and meet local primary producers. The names of the groups playing at Grow Your Own was closely followed by the line-up of the “growers” — Saxby’s, Benmar Farm and Palms Micro Bakery, to name a few — who would have a presence.

Sharon Bultitude, from the Mid-Coast Council, says events like Grow Your Own are great economic drivers and an important part of how the region is marketed.

“(It) attracts a younger demographic to the Great Lakes, which gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase the stunning natural beauty and fantastic experiences that this region offers,” she says. “We love the fact that the Grow your Own concept has been extended this year to really embrace not only local bands but also our fabulous local produce.”

Rankin says: “It’s an experiment, but there’s so much going on in regional Australia that’s not focused-on in the media. We’re from the country and want to share that.”

SAM BUCKINGHAM-JONES

JOURNALIST

11:00PM DECEMBER 3, 2017

David Snelgrove