IN ANY competition there is often a small group of competitors who set the pace for the rest of the pack, and the same can be said for business.
Gympie's Farmer and Sun marketplace and cafe, at the Southside Town Centre, could arguably be the competitor setting the pace for the rest and now aim to set the standard for sustainability by going plastic free for July.
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The business' trophy cabinet is bulging with about a dozen awards from the past five years, including the Gympie Times Business of the Year award in 2014.
Store manager Sharla Watson, daughter of founders Steve and Trena Waugh, said the business is built around being local, sustainable and fresh, which has proved key to their success.
The business roots lie in market stalls but have since grown from then to a small shop in 2012, to a cafe with a simple snack menu in 2015.
Farmer and Sun experienced a growth from five staff to 18 today, guided by the clear goal of providing fresh, seasonal produce and food created authentically.
Much of the produce comes from the Waugh's own farm on Glastonbury Road and Mrs Watson said the majority of food on the cafe menu is made to order.
"We went from 12 suppliers to over 100, and from 15 local farmers to 80 or more today," Mrs Watson explained.
"80 per cent of our menu is made to order, not in the cabinet, if possible. All food is also prepared on-site, nothing is bought in except our bread. We even make all the sauces and dressings."
Now, with one eye firmly on going plastic free, the business is putting its money where its mouth is and is trying to limit its impact.
"That's our image and has always been, to use biodegradable things," Mrs Watson said.
"A lot, which has come from the community, is recognising we are a small shop with local produce.
"As a local business, who now supports over 80 local producers in the region, we are passionate about reducing waste."
The business includes distance labels on produce, which shows how far the product has travelled from farm to store. Brown paper bags are prominent options to plastic bags everywhere you look.
"If you bring a reusable bag or even a box or something to put your shopping in, which isn't plastic, you get five per cent off," Mrs Watson said.
The business sells reusable coffee cups and had sold 90 cups in June alone, along with over 80 "known" refills, which draws a regular 50c discount, increased to $1 for the official Plastic Free July campaign. They are also providing take home glass mason jars for all takeaway cold drinks, for a small donation of 50c towards the cost. They will be offering a 20c discount for any refill.
"It is crazy to see how Gympie is becoming such a foodie place," Mrs Watson said.
"It reminds me of the Coast now, our cafe is always busy and has a great vibe from the customers."
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