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Success tastes fabulous

Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats’ Dion and Ali Kilmister were named New Zealand’s supreme champions for their mixed box of beef and lamb. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Wairarapa named ‘the region to watch’

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Two Wairarapa producers were among the winners of this year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, with Wairarapa named “the region to watch”, at the event on Tuesday night.

Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats and Tora Collective both won two awards each in the 2021 competition, winning against more than 300 food and drink entries from 126 producers around New Zealand.

Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats was named the supreme champion for its mixed box of beef and lamb. It was also awarded the Giesen paddock champion for a second time, after winning with its gourmet lamb pack in 2018.

Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats’ Dion and Ali Kilmister were named New Zealand’s supreme champions for their mixed box of beef and lamb. Wairarapa the ‘region to watch’.

Owners Dion and Ali Kilmister ran three farms in the lower North Island, establishing Homegrown Butchery, Deli and Pantry in September 2019.

Dion was “chuffed” with the win.

“It’s pretty cool for a little old butcher shop in Masterton to win a national award,” he said.

“It means all that work paid off.”

He noted the team effort involved in the winning effort, with eight people working on the farms and eight in the butchery.

“It’s really good for the little artisan guys to be able to showcase their stuff,” Dion said.

“It’s a product that we like to eat and it’s awesome to have top chefs say they like it too.

“It means the locals get to eat top-quality product.”

Head judge Lauraine Jacobs said each cut was flavourful and tasty.

“A testament to good farming practices and the natural New Zealand grass-fed lamb and beef that is the envy of farming countries around the world,” Jacobs said.

“It’s very comforting to see that amongst numerous clever food innovators and food producers there are still many natural unadulterated products that shine, showing just how good fresh-from-the-farm or sea New Zealand food is.”

Fellow Wairarapa producers Tora Collective championed the region’s seafood, winning the Seafood New Zealand Water Champion for its paua.

Tora Collective ‘s Troy Bramley and Claire Edwards have won two awards at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, for their fresh paua and commitment to the environment.

Commercial fisher Troy Bramley and marketer Claire Edwards began the company in October 2019, after realising the best seafood of New Zealand waters was destined for overseas.

They fished sustainability off the southern coast and now supplied about 50kg of live paua a week exclusively within New Zealand.

Bramley said the awards signalled the pair was “doing something right”.

“It’s all been by feel,” he said, “All the mahi we’ve put into it. It feels amazing to be recognised.”

Edwards agreed, saying she was “just rapt”.

“There’s so many big corporates out there, so for us to be recognised as independent fishers, that’s just awesome.”

Although Wairarapa was a “large and diverse” food-producing region, it was more known for its inland goods than seafood.

“It just helps the profile of Wairarapa,” Edwards said.

“Even last night people were like, ‘Oh, where are you from?’, and we were like ‘Tora,’ and they said, ‘where’s that?’.

Troy Bramley.

“You can’t sell a secret, and right now we’re a bit of a secret!”

The company was also awarded the NZ Life and Leisure Spirit of New Zealand Award for its commitment to protecting an indigenous resource.

As well as fishing sustainability, its commitment to the environment extended to its recyclable and compostable packaging.

Tora Collective used seaweed to stop live seafood from moving in transit and filled robust bull kelp with water, before freezing and using it as a natural ice pack.

Awards co-director Nicola McConnell particularly noted Wairarapa’s performance.

“Based on this year’s results, Wairarapa is the region to watch … Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats and Tora Collective both hail from this region and between them they collected four of this year’s top awards.”

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