The Paris issue

Our October issue is on sale - the Paris special. Grab your copy for all-things Parisian, plus ultimate French baking recipes and more.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller before October 24, 2016 and receive 3 BONUS ISSUES - save 46%.

Gourmet on your iPad

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad.

From paddock to plate: Australia's produce on Instagram

Illustration by Adriana Picker

Illustration by Adriana Picker

With meetings of like minds and fellow farmers at her fingertips, Paulette Whitney finds insta gratification.

It's cold at the bus stop. Other parents seeing their kids off are dressed in freshly pressed shirts and shiny shoes. I'm encased in woollen jumpers, gumboots and yesterday's muddy track pants, because what's the point of clean clothes when I'll be filthy again in 10 minutes?

It's not that I'm ashamed of my work; I love it so much that I find it hard to think about much else. It's more that I'm afraid of boring people, waxing lyrical about the best varieties of collard greens or how to cook chicken feet. If there's a choice between washing and ironing, or getting a row of collards seeded, it's a no-brainer.

So, at the end of the day, when I curl up on the couch with my iPhone, I'm not posting pictures of my manicure, or looking for cat videos. I'm cyberstalking. Mostly it's other farmers, who make me feel less alone, and chefs who use exciting produce. They stalk me, too, and I love it.

What I'm looking for is camaraderie, techniques and new plant varieties. What they want from me I can only guess at. If I measured it by the number of likes I'd say it's pictures of carrots at sunset. If I judge by the comments, I'd say they were seeking debate about pesticides or rooster-culling ethics.

I follow chefs like Ben Shewry, Peter Gilmore, René Redzepi and Rodolfo Guzmán who source amazing plants and show us how they're used. Farmers such as Epicurean Harvest at Blackheath and Old Mill Road at Moruya are skilled at their craft, and talk about farming in ways that allow us to learn from one another. My ultimate farm crushes, plant breeders like the Experimental Farm Network, share new and old vegetable strains they're endeavouring to make even more delicious. I love that social media shrinks physical distances between like minds, allowing new kinds of conversations.

I get an immeasurable rush of joy when I pull a perfect turnip from the ground. Months before, I'll have found a new strain of seed, and sown and tended it. Now I'm harvesting it to send to the restaurants of Hobart. My co-farmer, Matt, will whisk them all away for delivery, leaving me with empty harvest carts like empty nests. Our productivity feels ephemeral - you work like crazy to make something that gets eaten, and you start again. Every day.

Enter the internet. I'll share a picture of those turnips and when someone likes them I feel happy. A farmer might ask about the variety or give advice about tending them. If I'm lucky a chef will share a picture of where that turnip has ended up - roasted, fermented or charred.

I often wonder what drives those who aren't like me, who aren't farmers or chefs seeking knowledge, to follow us, to click "like" when there isn't a cat or an activewear-clad, smoothie-toting person in sight. Is it the physical beauty of vegetables that lures them? (Lord knows our market stall has been the subject of more pictures than purchases.) Maybe it's a longing for connection to the source of food when the lifestyles of many impose distance between eaters and growers. Perhaps our romanticised images offer dreams of escape from office cube-farms.

It can be a beautiful thing, connecting with strangers over a mutual love of food. I hope some are interested in the politics we tuck into our Instagram feeds: we Instafarmers might share a pretty sunrise while mentioning coal seam gas development in our region; another will heft a bunch of radishes skyward, begging in her caption for more people to come to the farmers' market and bring their own bags; or another will share the challenges of getting her salumi past regulators. Pretty, edible Trojan horses bearing loads of small-farm propaganda.

So, while my nails and wardrobe go untended, and my farmer's budget doesn't allow me to fly to Noma for dinner, I can enjoy it vicariously, be inspired, and learn from folks all over the world. And I like it. So, please, come stalk with me.

Follow Paulette Whitney on Instagram:  @provenancegrowers

Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
things to do this autumn

Whether it's foraging for wild mushrooms in a picturesque Victorian forest or watching a film by moonlight in Darwin, we've got you covered with 20 exciting autumn experiences from around Australia.

Read More
Gourmet TV

Check out our YouTube channel for our latest cover recipes, chef cooking demos, interviews and more.

Watch Now

You might also like...

Adriano Zumbo's Christmas recipes

So you think you know trifle? Think again. Adriano Zumbo tur...

Holiday entertaining recipes

Dare to think outside the box this season with an elegant lu...

David Thompson's Thai recipes

Scholarship and street food come together in David Thompson’...

Strawberry recipes

Sweet, juicy and bursting with flavour, strawberries add a b...

Longrain recipes

It’s been 10 years since Longrain introduced us to big Thai ...

Barbecue recipes

Grab the tongs and novelty apron and fire up your imaginatio...

Fast spring recipes

Fast and fresh food can be ready in just 30 minutes with the...

Chorizo recipes

Where would Spanish cuisine be without the chorizo? This ver...

Recipes inspired by Julia Child

So you can't wait to watch Julie & Julia and don't have a co...

Spanish dessert recipes

The Spanish know exactly how to sweeten the post-prandial de...

Recipes from Spain's Catalonia region

Who better to extol the virtues of this rich Spanish cuisine...

Recipes from Spain's Basque country

Spanning the French and Spanish borders and the fertile land...

Tapas recipes

Small bites of savoury delights and a glass or two of sherry...

Fast Spanish recipes

Put down that packaged meal and step away from the microwave...

Light spring lunches

Spring ingredients sparkle when handled with a little tender...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.