Sometimes you meet a group of people in this job and you know that you've made some great connections forever.
Last weekend I had the great privilege of hosting a group of global visitors all visiting New Zealand through the Friendship Force Organisation.
The group is in New Zealand with three weeks to explore the North Island through the different farming communities, connecting with the local producers farmers and growers throughout their time in the country.
The group came to stay with me at Vineyard Cottages and we spent a full day in the North West Auckland region discovering the diversity of growers and farmers in this area.
Our first stop was to Highland Cow breeder where we were introduced to nearly 30 different cattle, learning from the farmers Jenny and Doug the importance of blood lines pedigree and commitment. We were able to see the management of their farm block through mapping and learnt the perils of plastic silage wrap. The group was lucky to meet an award winning gentle cow who was happily tied up to the fence and enjoyed the attention of the enthusiastic group. During our time with Jenny and Doug, Doug explained the importance of the horns to the breed, the reason they chose Highland cows over other beef breeds, weaning, placating the cattle and told stories of survival of the fittest during calving season. While most of our tours are focused around what you can eat in the country, learning where our meat comes from is one of the most interesting areas we work in.
After coffee in one of the area’s most well-known farm shops where everyone took full advantage of fruit season and the home made pastries, we visited Vishna who is growing table grapes, purely because she was asked to by locals if she would! During dinner the night before I had explained to the group how when we moved to Vineyard cottagers, I have been to the local vegetable market and tried these incredible grapes. To me they tasted like a childhood sweet. They almost tasted fake because the flavour is so intense and not like generic supermarket grapes at all. We were able to wonder underneath the arbour of grapevines while Vishna, the grower picked some of the ripest and the most delicious grapes for us. We did buy a couple of boxes to take home to be added to what is now affectionately known as the friendship Force fruit pizza and most of the group agreed with my description of the grapes!
We concluded our morning touring by visiting one of my favourite honey producers on their property on the way out to Bethells Beach. Terry and Karlene have been producing their Manuka honey the nearly 20 years. Not only of honey in jars but also using the wax for medicinal purposes in balms and creams and lotions. We bought some of the delicious Apple cider honeygar to have as part of dish created for our evening meal. After a spectacular dinner of barbecued lamb (thank you gents for your very dedicated work on the grills) salads and a requested second serving of our famous roast potatoes, I was very embarrassed to bring out a super sticky pastry laden with stone fruits and grapes from our visit Vishna's. However, everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and I was delighted to claim the recipe as my own and it will forever be called the Friendship Force Fruit Pizza.
Waving goodbye the next morning and returning the lodge, the dining room it was eerily quiet and I have to say, I would very much like it if the Friendship Force group were back in town every week. Happy travelling gang!
Lots of love