Rebecca Zentveld (right) of Zentveld Coffee Plantation giving Karen Hirst of Foodscape Tours a guided tour of the plantation.
Rebecca Zentveld (right) of Zentveld Coffee Plantation giving Karen Hirst of Foodscape Tours a guided tour of the plantation. Jay Cronan

Friends' big appetite for food tours

WHAT happens when you mix a 17-year friendship with a passion for food and a background in marketing and communications? Well, in the case of Jacqueline Weiley and Karen Hirst, the recipe results in a new business called Foodscape Tours.

“Karen and I met when we were studying,” Ms Weiley recounted. “We found we had a similar work ethic and that we worked well together.

“We decided after some years that it would be great if we could work together in a business.”

Despite a 'sea-change' for Ms Hirst who moved to Byron Bay from Sydney, the friends looked at buying into a number of industries but nothing really captured their imagination. It wasn't until Ms Weiley was given the gift of a food tour in Sydney that inspiration came.

“Karen was already involved in the food industry in Byron Bay,” Ms Weiley said. “She mentioned all the great farmers' markets and produce up around the area and we realised that we could combine our passion with our work.”

From January the women started exploring and developing the concept of a food tour in the Northern Rivers region and when they approached their accountant they had a surprisingly positive reaction.

“He said that it was 'the single best idea you girls have had so far. Go do it',” Ms Weiley laughed.

After many meetings with potential produce partners and developments and testing of itineraries, the friends are confident that they have the best service to offer locals and visitors alike in their quest to introduce top quality produce and food from the Byron Bay surrounds.

“We take you to the farmers' properties - where most aren't open to the public,” Ms Weiley said.

“The benefit to producers is that it allows them to profile, talk about and sell their product.

“People love the stories and it can add so much more to a purchase.”

Ms Weiley believed that while many had discussed the idea of food tours in the Northern Rivers no one had 'stepped up to the plate'.

“We saw an opportunity and have taken it,” Ms Weiley said. “With us, people can go beyond Byron Bay and see some of the hinterland and hopefully they will enjoy it so much, they will come back.”

Some food producers on the Foodscape Tours include the Bangalow Cheese Company, Zentvelds Coffee and Rainforest Foods. To learn more visit www.foodscapetours.com.au



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