Focus on local produce
"IT'S just so wonderful to be involved in something like this - it's a really important thing for our region."
Maureen Lynch, of All the Best Fine Foods at Casino, couldn't hide her delight at the launch of The Grocer yesterday.
It is part of Summerland House Farm, which is a business initiative of the House With No Steps at Alstonville.
Thanks to a $25,000 grant from Northern Rivers Food Links, The Grocer has become a reality, stocking only locally-grown fruit and vegetables and value-added products such as jams and relishes.
"If you can see it here, it's local, it's fresh and it's in season," said HWNS regional manager Brett Lacey.
"The success of a project like this is going to rely on the support of farmers and growers in our region … and we are really grateful for their support," Mr Lacey said.
"We want The Grocer to be a one-stop location to showcase regional food.
"We believe that is something unique."
Northern Rivers Food Links regional project co-ordinator Jane Laverty said more than 140 different food types were grown in the Northern Rivers region.
"People know that we grow avocados, macadamias, some bananas and lots of coffee, but there is a lot more that we can offer," Ms Laverty said.
"This project has been right at the community level, right at the grassroots level.
"More and more, people are asking, 'Is it grown locally on the Northern Rivers?'.
"So consumers are starting to influence the decisions that retailers make.
"Everyone can make a difference by asking that question."
Ms Laverty also launched an iPhone app, My Food - Northern Rivers, which helps users find out about local food, farmers' markets and produce used in restaurants.
Ballina Mayor Phillip Silver, who officially opened The Grocer yesterday, agreed that it was important to make educated decisions about food.
"The UN has recently announced that we now have seven billion people in the world," Cr Silver said.
"The way we are going is just not sustainable. So I am delighted to have this project here."
The Grocer is located at the House With No Steps on Wardell Rd, Alstonville, and is open from 9am-4pm every day.