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Naomi Lindsay has always been a foodie.
From her time foraging for apples as a child to travelling the world where the first thing on her itinerary in a foreign country was a food tour, Lindsay has always sought out interesting food experiences.
"Travel and food go together."
So it’s probably no surprise that she has, despite the wrecking ball that Covid-19 has been to tourism, decided to create her own food tour.
It came out of a realisation about five years ago that no-one was showcasing Central Otago growers and produce in that way.
"Wanaka, Central Otago, Queenstown have some fantastic artisan producers and growers but nobody is doing tours."
That astonished her. Having come from the United Kingdom, Lindsay is passionate about her adopted country.
It was a move that nearly did not happen. She had spent a year in Australia before she headed home to the UK and settled back into work as a freelance journalist.
A few months later, she was being interviewed for a job as a communications manager for a council when her best friend pleaded with her to come to New Zealand.
"I was torn. She gave me a good-luck present for the interview — a Rough Guide to New Zealand. So I thought if I don’t get it I’ll go."
She was soon winging her way to New Zealand. Seeing a haka performed in Rotorua sealed the deal for her.
For the past 17 or so years, Lindsay has been based in Queenstown working in various marketing and communication roles, many of which put her in touch with the wonderful things producers and makers were doing around the region.
But love saw her cross the Crown Range and move to Wanaka.
"I fell in love with Wanaka and him."
She now works as executive officer at Ignite Wanaka (Wanaka’s chamber of commerce) and in her spare time works on her dream: a food tour company — she has named it Forage and Feast — that educates and informs consumers about the skills, effort and time-honoured practices that go into producing locally-grown, slow food through an immersive culinary tour.
"It came down to finding the time and money to launch it."
"I want to help people tell their stories about growing or the artisan products they make. Kiwis are really shy about telling their own stories."
So she made some calls, visited and talked to farmers, foragers, growers, herders, butchers, bakers, apiarists and more to find out about their food journey.
Lindsay got them on board with her idea of hosting small hands-on group food tours, where participants pick, forage and fish themselves and meet the people behind the food.
"We’ll be getting out in the country and getting our hands dirty."
The collected ingredients are then cooked by local cooks and chefs at The Camp near Glen Dene Station for the group to share and enjoy around a big table.
A highlight of the tour for Lindsay is the wild walk, where participants are shown how to forage for edible foods and medicinal plants growing in the area and fish for salmon at Hook, another new Wanaka venture.
"It’s more of a food adventure than your typical city food tour. I want people to understand how much work goes into growing or making that sourdough."
It is important to her that people realise how much love goes into locally-grown food.
She has run a couple of practice sessions, with the locals involved enjoying the experience.
"The feedback has been great. One person said it would be a great way for new people to town to get to know the place. I hadn’t thought of that."
The seasonality of the area means there are producers to visit year-round. Lindsay envisages winter tours will be shorter and will not go ahead if it rains.
Her philosophy includes a focus on sustainability, zero waste and supporting her community, so a percentage of her profits will be gifted to local community groups, including Food For Love and Community Networks, as well as national charity Eat New Zealand.
The tours are only part of the picture — Lindsay hopes to add "meet the maker" type events and small pop-up dinners using local produce to highlight seasonal changes.
"I want to tell our food story, connect people back to where their food comes from."