I sat down with Tim and Naomi, the owners of Forage, and immediately their passion for taking home grown food, from the paddock to the consumers plate shines through. I asked them why the name Forage? It turns out that the decision of how to name the business was a simple one. After both coming up with two different lists, the pair found that the name Forage encompassed what they believed the café should embody for its visitors. Knowing where your food comes from is such an important ethos for both, they believed consumers would make the connection that they could forage for lunch, as you might forage in the forest and feel the same connection to the food on your plate.

With a new baby on the way for Naomi and her partner Jess, and both living and working on their respective farms, things are quite busy for the two entrepreneurs. Naomi laughs. ‘Everyone thinks we are crazy for starting a business now, but we will make it work.’ Tim jumps in, ‘If you wait for opportunity, you’ll be waiting the rest of your life.’

Visitors to the cafe enjoy their meals, amongst the creative space.

A strong, vibrant sense of community surrounds the café, and supports every aspect. While not working in the café, Naomi and Tim’s respective partners Jess and Linton provide significant support in the way of creative direction, and working on their farms, and both have said that without the support of their partners, Forage would not be up and running.

Inside Forage, striking originals from local Bendigo artist, Sarah the Painter adorn the walls, as greenery from That Foliage Life cascades from the ceiling. When I asked, Tim and Naomi mentioned that these were local, Bendigo businesses, and that it was an important part of their ethos to support other artisans.

Man kneeling in the garden, using a knife to cut a lettuce head from the garden. The man is smiling at the lettuce., and is wearing a hat and a blue flannelette shirt.
Tim inspecting lettuce from his garden, that will be used later at Forage.

Turning attention to the menu, seasonal is a key word that jumps straight off the page. Chef Naomi, along with their team, crafts jams and chutneys to complement the toast and burger offerings on the menu with excess produce from the farm. Seasonal salads are constructed daily, to make use of vegetables sourced straight from the farm. On occasion, community members will donate excess fruit and vegetables from their backyard. One week, delicious danishes might be crafted using excess pears, and the next you might try tangy lemon butter as a side to your toast. There is something extra special, about knowing that your breakfast scone has ingredients that may have come from your neighbour’s excess produce. Using seasonal vegetables in their dishes, allow the Forage team to reduce their waste to virtually zero, and any table scraps are taken home to the poultry that Tim breeds on the farm.

These salads are a meal on their own!

Naomi says there is no greater motivation and inspiration than heading to the vegetable garden to harvest your own produce, then using that in the kitchen. Tim reflects that the combined impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, and the City of Gastronomy designation gives consumers a unique opportunity to connect with where their food comes from.

‘It is not easy to grow food, but you need to have a go, we push each other to do it… you need to feed yourself, be responsible.  I tell people even if it is only a pot with cherry tomatoes in it, and you pick your cherry tomatoes, that you add to your salad, that will save you relying on the supermarket.’

Naomi inspects sugar snap peas before harvest.

We look forward to seeing Forage Bendigo, leap from strength to strength. Take a trip to Strathfieldsaye soon, and discover the difference at Forage.