Our trip to Food Forest Organics
Plant-based eating and locally grown organic produce are at the heart of film director James Cameron’s picturesque Greytown food store Food Forest Organics.
In Greytown, South Wairarapa, where State Highway 2 meets impossibly pretty cottages with white picket fences, a famous Hollywood name is quietly selling vegetables to the locals and doing his best to walk softly on the planet. Tucked into Baillie House, an historic home that sprawls lazily across its 1182-square-metre site, Food Forest Organics is a plant-based store and eatery – one of a small but growing number in the country, and certainly the only one owned by a world-renowned film director.
James Cameron (the creative force behind blockbusters Avatar, The Terminator, Aliens and Titanic among many others) and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, opened Food Forest Organics in February 2015 to showcase products from the Cameron Family Farm, their 1450-hectare rural property. The pair had grown to love the region after spending time there during the filming of Avatar.
Sally Adams, the manager of Food Forest Organics, says the Camerons were keen to share their passion for a plant-based lifestyle.
“They want people to eat food that has less impact on the environment and is better for their health,” says Sally. “Plant-based options, with a strong emphasis on organic, fresh, ethically produced and sustainable produce, is what drives us.”
Around 95 percent of the produce delivered from the farm twice weekly is certified organic. The day we visited, that included rows of red cabbage, three types of sprouts, juicy broad beans and fragrant fennel bulbs.
The adjacent kitchen uses this produce to turn out such delights as tofu and miso broth with pumpkin seed and rice balls, as well as a range of seasonal salads. Those with a sweet tooth are also catered for with gluten- and refined sugar-free desserts, including raw tiramisu cheesecake and a salted caramel slice.
“We want people to come in, try the food and then buy whatever they need to replicate the recipes at home,” says Sally.
There is a range of smoothies, handmade pestos and pâtés to take home, as well as a growing roll call of products grown and processed on the Cameron Family Farm, such as hemp seed, walnut and flaxseed oils. Manuka honey from the farm’s 250 beehives is also available, along with beeswax candles, lavender oil and organic soaps.
What they can’t grow or make is supplemented by gluten-free flour, cheese and yoghurt from further afield, as well as specialty teas, coffee beans and gourmet chocolate.
Baillie House was built around 1885 and over the years has been a family home, an electrical shop and an art gallery. The Camerons have landscaped the back garden, adding raised herb beds and a tree-house. They also renovated two apartments above the shop which are available for short-term stays.
Sally says she isn’t surprised by how well locals and visitors have embraced the store and its philosophy.
“People are increasingly concerned about their health and the environment and want to eat in a way that reflects that. We also have people with allergies or food intolerances who say, ‘I can eat everything on your shelves!’ And there are those who think plant-based food isn’t for them but they try something and are surprised at how tasty and filling it is. We’re happy to be part of that change.”