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Global movement towards sourcing food locally creates opportunity for farmers and producers


8 October 2010
Tropical North Queensland farmers and food producers are being offered the chance to learn more about how to take advantage of the growing international trend for locally-produced food products.

In response to growing consumer demand for fresh seasonal food and a reduced distance between where food is produced and distributed throughout the world, Southern Cross University, in partnership with Advance Cairns, will be showcasing a regional food system designed to enable local farmers and producers to diversify and add value to their products.

Next month the regional bodies will host two ‘Food and Agritourism’ field days, one at Mena Creek and the other at Walkamin and two ‘Regional Food System’ producer forums, one at Mourilyan and the other at Walkami.

Rose Wright, industry extension manager at Southern Cross University's Australian Regional Tourism Research Centre said the regional food system concept and development of links to food tourism could allow farmers to diversify their income and therefore become more financially resilient.

“Farmers watching their margins fall in the traditional central market system, while consumer prices increase and retail food profits continue to grow, are pausing for thought and wondering ‘is there a better way to earn a living from my hard work?’ - and these forums will provide some answers and options,” Ms Wright said.

“In order to give locals and visitors a real ‘taste of paradise’, we need to work with the farmers to ensure that local, fresh seasonal food is available for sale at food retailers and on restaurant and hotel menus throughout the region.

“We need to be able to tell the difference between local produce and food that comes from outside the region so that consumers, both locals and visitors, can easily make the choice to buy authentic local food.

“The field days are an excellent opportunity for farmers to find out how to value-add to what they are already producing in a way that links them with local consumers, visitors and commercial users and promotes their produce in a totally new market.”

The ‘Regional Food System’ producer forums will provide information to local producers and manufacturers about opportunities for selling produce within the region and will also promote discussion around the establishment of a regional food supply chain.

The ‘Food and Agritourism’ field days will provide information to farmers and rural land holders about developing ‘on-farm’ tourism opportunities.

The upcoming events follow the success of the recently completed Tropical North Queensland Tourism Development Program, an initiative of Southern Cross University, Advance Cairns and the Federal Government aimed at broadening the range of tourism products and experiences in the region.

Key outcomes of the program were the development of a strategy to link agriculture, food and tourism sectors and a business development program to support farmers to diversify, beginning with activities like the food forums and the agritourism field days.

The ‘Food and Agritourism’ field days will be held at Mena Creek on Wednesday, November 10 and at Walkamin on Thursday November, 11 from 9am to 3pm. The cost is $27.50 per person including lunch and morning tea.

The ‘Regional Food System’ producer forums will be held at Mourilyan on Tuesday, November 9 and at Walkamin on Thursday, November 11 from 3.30pm to 5.30pm and the forums are free.

Southern Cross University and Advance Cairns are encouraging anyone interested to attend. Please note that spaces are limited at the forums and people wanting to attend are requested to RSVP to Sue Fairley, Project Officer, Advance Cairns on 0417 735 724.

Photo: Rose Wright

For media contact please call Zuleika Henderson, media officer Southern Cross University on 0408 644533 or 07 5506 9385.