BANGALOW Showground was awash with fine food and drink at the weekend, with the third annual Sample Food Festival proving more than merely popular.
Organiser Remy Tancred said this year's event was by far the biggest, with 200 display tents and well over a thousand people gathered on the grounds at any one time.
Central to the theme was the act of bringing together food growers, producers, and consumers to sample the incredibly diverse and edible wares of the Northern Rivers.
For many of the small food businesses, the event was about creating consumer loyalty for their brand in the local region.
"We used to try to sell to Sydney and the capital cities," explained Bangalow Cheese Company manager Rhys Burley. "But now our business model is about taking care of the local area and branching out from that."
Stone and Wood Brewery co-founder Jamie Cook said his growing business was looking closer to home.
"As a local brewer we see a responsibility about being part of the local community," he said.
"This area celebrates diversity and creativity and we want to remain a part of that."
For Shaun Martin of Kunghur near Uki, selling bottled water at the festival was much more than business.
When deregulation forced the closure of his family's milking shed Shaun turned to well water as a way to keep the farm afloat.
But he said branding of his Mt Warning spring water was critical to its success, and presenting that brand to the community was one reason why he had his stall at the Sample Food Festival.
"We are all natural, of course, we are carbon neutral and there is a philanthropic side to our business which employs aboriginal people in our area.
For Rebecca McEwan of Salumi Australia at Billinudgel, the food festival was 'hugely important' to her business.
"We distribute locally ourselves and the majority of restaurants here stock our products but this event is our favourite because we get to talk to the locals and they get to talk to us about the storage and handling of our Italian style small goods.
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