How do you keep regional tourism dollars rolling in and support local producers when nobody can leave home for months at a time?
It’s been a major challenge for many growers and makers across Southern NSW as COVID-19 gripped the community, stifled the market and prevented regional producers from attending international trade fairs and networking events.
Some lateral thinking has resulted in a series of videos focussing on Southern NSW and its people, produce and provenance, including everyone from oyster growers to truffle farmers, winemakers and cherry growers.
The 13 videos are the brainchild of the not-for-profit Agribusiness Regional Development Association (ARDA), which received funding for the project through the Australian Government’s Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation (ATMAC) grant program, designed to help small to medium-sized producers access new markets.
One of them is Merimbula Gourmet Oysters owner Pip Boyton, whose family-run oyster farm is on the shores of Merimbula Lake. She says she was thrilled to be involved in the project.
“Regional producers have been through some tough times, and the opportunity to let people know that we’re still going strong, and have a really unique offering, is incredibly valuable,” she says.
“Not many of us have the time, capacity or budget to travel and meet potential buyers even without COVID, so having these videos tell our story for us to a wider audience is fantastic.”
Young district cherry growers and winemakers Cath and Pete Mullany won the Riedel Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon at the 2020 ICC Sydney NSW Wine Awards, and their Ballinaclash orchard was named Young’s business of the year in January. They were also included in the video series. Cath says it was a great opportunity to showcase the products of the emerging Hilltops region.
“Right across Hilltops from Boorowa and Harden to Young and across to Jugiong, we’re finding people want to discover new destinations in light of COVID.
“In the past, they may well have driven through without stopping, but they’ve been very pleasantly surprised by what’s right on their doorsteps. We really appreciated ARDA giving us the opportunity to participate in such a professionally produced video,” Cath says.
Before the pandemic took hold, ARDA had planned to host regional producers on trade missions to South East Asia to forge new business connections and bring potential international buyers to NSW and ACT farms, fisheries, and vineyards.
“Like most people, we had to rethink our plans due to border closures. We needed to tell the authentic stories of our regional producers in a way that would be as effective as those face-to-face meetings, and we think we’ve more than succeeded with these videos,” said ARDA secretary Daryl Young.
The Canberra region compilation also includes Durran Durra / Blue Frog Truffles at Sutton, the Lake George Winery at Collector, Uriarra Station, Grove Estate Wines at Young, Farrah’s Liquor Collective in Canberra and La Barre Olives at Yass. The South Coast video also features Broadwater Oysters at Pambula, Sea Health Products from Tilba and the Tilba Real Dairy.
Mr Young said the videos would be shown to prospective domestic and international buyers who highly value Australian produce, as well as tourism operators, industry groups and at business and trade forums. In particular, ARDA was looking to share the videos with Canberra-based embassies and high commissions representing more than 80 nations.
“Doing the groundwork now to let these countries know via their diplomatic corps of the great things we have to offer means local agri-businesses can reap the rewards when people are travelling again,” he said.
“As well as opening up new sales markets, we want to help put this region on the map as one of Australia’s most diverse and exciting food and wine tourism destinations.”
To meet the producers and watch the videos, visit the ARDA.