Less than 10 years ago this was the response you’d get from a high-flying Sydneysider, if you asked whether they’d consider going “regional.”
However, as wooden chopping boards and flannel shirts infiltrate Sydney, all it takes is a weekend down the coast to see it hasn’t been a one-way exchange. Why? Big shot CEO’s and ‘power couples’ can now be seen up to their knees in organic fertiliser, with a copy of “An Idiot’s Guide To Permaculture” tucked into their back pocket.
Exaggeration aside, Yuppies (and Boomers whose kids have flown the nest) are buying up rural property and making the urban to country switch.
While there are a variety of reasons for this
sea country-change, Biota and its little brother The Barn are top-class restaurants in Bowral, NSW, which account for (or at least represent) two of them: sustainability and community.
Wracked with guilt, Sydneysiders decide to offset a lifetime of capitalism by purchasing a farm (or by contributing to the regional economy for a weekend).
While that’s a cruel caricature… a lot of good work is being done, with Biota and The Barn being two such examples: classy, small scale operations that embodies the country philosophy, bringing diners farm-to-table produce that rarely fails to impress.
Capitalising on this growing sustainable foodie trend is James Viles, one of Australia’s most respected young chefs and restaurateurs, recognized particularly for his commitment to sustainability and his imaginative modern food. James is also an Electrolux ambassador, as well as the owner (and chef) of the two-hatted Bowral restaurant Biota and The Barn.
When asked about the growing city to country trend, and how it is affecting regional centres, James told D’Marge, “Yes I have noticed this, especially in Bowral, it’s definitely growing and is becoming much more sophisticated in the town centre in terms of what is being offered from restaurants to shops.”
“People visiting have more of an expectation now that rural areas will cater to their likes, which in many ways is a good thing as it creates jobs and opportunities for people in more rural areas that didn’t exist before.”
James added, “Property prices in the city are also crazy, and young people need to move further out if they want to afford something. But instead of moving 15km from the city and being on the edge, they want something completely different, if they can’t have the ultimate city lifestyle.”
“For both old and young, it’s lifestyle and mental health, people are wanting to slow down, have a better work-life balance and spend time doing things and spending time with people that mean something,” James continued. “It’s much easier to live more mindfully when you’re surrounded by likeminded people in places like Byron and Bowral.”
As for food, James explains, “We emphasise the importance of the ingredients and knowing their origins at The Barn and Biota. Knowing where your food comes from though isn’t just about the location it came from. It starts from knowing what it has eaten, where its food has been, how it has been treated, the environment it has been in.”
“This is farming with integrity and it’s important that people know this because we need to respect it from start to finish as it starts its consumer journey.”
James also told us, “Society seems to have lost its touch with nature a little bit but they are hungry to get it back but they’re just not sure which way to go and how to it get back so I think we’re going to see a lot of off-grid things happening that will force us to disconnect in order to connect.”
This in mind, James encourages anyone thinking of moving down to Bowral (or anyone looking to boost the eco-friendliness of their house, wherever it is), “Think about why it is you are moving and what you want to get out of the experience. Do you want to sell product, or use it for your own home?”
“This will help inform the type of property you find and what you prioritise spending your time on. [Also] get involved in local events and groups, this will help build your community and friendships in a new area. I think people underestimate how difficult it can be.”
“It’s an easier life in some ways but starting from scratch can be a burden financially and mentally, if you’re used to a certain way of life in the city.”
“I think people need to start off small when making these changes,” James added, “because otherwise it might come as a little bit of a shock to the system. They can start off with planter boxes and herbs so they’re not relying on store-bought herbs. This way they can pick them as they’re needed and in turn reducing waste. This is easy to do even if you live in an apartment so there’s no excuses not to give it a go.”
“You can work your way up from there and start planting different fruit and veggies that are in season.”
“Ultimately, the level of eco-friendly you can go depends on your home so if you’re living in an apartment in the city, you’d have to look at different avenues of sustainability rather than installing a pond or solar panels,” James then told us. “Having good quality appliances, like a fridge from Electrolux with features that allow for the perfect cooling environment, will mean your fruit and vegetables will last for longer and less need for wastage.”
Your next country adventure awaits.