A showcase of the south

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Gathered Game founders Chris and Sally Thorn, of Te Anau with their dogs Sika (left) and Milla.

FROM multiple corners across Southland, a group of uniquely artisan producers have joined forces in the pursuit of showcasing the region’s hidden flavours.

For Gathered Game founder Chris Thorn, it was “hard to gain traction” as a small business in the artisan product market, he said.

His solution was to come up with a way to “link-up” with similar businesses in the region.

“We wanted to be a part of something bigger and to show people what sort of goodness Southland is producing.”

During the past year, Gathered Game formed a “collective” with Munro Honey Co, Forage and Graze, and Auld Farm Distillery.

“We’re really keen to start off by doing some food shows together and representing Southland. We want people to give us a try, once they taste the products they speak for themselves,” he said.

Sick of eating “salami that wasn’t salami”, Mr Thorne and his wife Sally started their hand-crafted venison meats business in 2015, with the help of Chris’ brother, David Thorn.

“Made the old-fashioned way,” the avid hunter launched salami products and deer sticks made with all natural ingredients.

With the head office based in Te Anau, wild deer was gathered from Fiordland, and then processed in Lumsden, he said.

When Steph Munro, of Munro Honey Co, was approached by Mr Thorn about the collective, she asked herself, “why not?”

“We want to tackle a few food shows together and take our small products to the world stage.”

Three years ago, Mrs Munro started with two hives.

By this time next week, she would have 50 hives dotted around Southland, she said.

A “hive-to-jar” process, Mrs Munro did the beekeeping, harvesting, packaging, and even built all her own equipment with the help of her husband, she said.

A raw, “honest honey” – her product was 100% pure, with no added ingredients.

“Big on sustainability” and making the move towards being fully organic – “the idea is to be better for the bees, better for the planet, and better for you,” she said.

Next to come on board was Rob and Tony Auld with their business, Auld Farm Distillery.

Mr Auld said working with other Southland businesses was something the couple had already considered before being approached by Mr Thorn.

Their whiskey distillery in Scotts Gap, Western Southland, was established in 2017 after the idea had brewed for several years.

Although whiskey had a long maturation period, Mr Auld expected to be selling their first batch in about five years time, he said.

“Eventually we want to get into agri[cultural] tourism, the big appeal for us was being able to show people how we grow everything here on farm.”

Friends Tash Hamilton, of Winton, and Kath Mempes, of Orepuki, who own Forage and Graze, had a plan from the beginning to grow.

Joining a collective made sense to them, Mrs Hamilton said.

“We are small ourselves, we know how hard it is to branch out and get your product out there – there’s power in numbers.”

The duo bought the Auckland business at the beginning of 2016, and brought the grain-free, paleo-friendly snack business to the deep south.

Working out of the Winton Bakery after shop hours, the pair made their signature granola and trail mix, with their biltong [dried, cured meat] processed in Christchurch.

“We both have young families and are both quite active, we feel better ourselves for eating clean foods and we want to share that with others,” Mrs Hamilton said.

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