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Gourmet food win for Loddon Mallee producers

16/03/2021

It’s time for Loddon Mallee’s food and beverage producers to shine.

From olive oil to wine to chocolate, Loddon Mallee’s small food and beverage producers are set to benefit via a $70,000 Victorian Government grant to promote new food markets via online Geelong company, The Food Purveyor.

wine bottles on a production line

Nicole Newman established The Food Purveyor in 2012. Here, we chat with her about the funding announcement, and what it means for the region.

Q&A with Nicole Newman, Managing Director, The Food Purveyor.

Nicole NewmanThis project will support new markets for small regional food producers in Loddon Shire. Why is that support needed? 

Most emerging Loddon Shire food producers work a ‘seven day week’; managing a farming property, producing something unique from their farm operations, attending farmer’s markets and packing products for sale. This isn’t something they can sustain indefinitely and they have to find additional ‘pathways’ to other markets such as retail stores, hampers and other online sales. That’s where this project aims to assist.  The lands of the Loddon allow for truly sustainable living; it’s the home of broad-acre farming properties that have provided for generations of local families.  The region offers fresh local produce including breads, meats, olives, tomatoes, fruit, and even salt.  It is on these plains that eucalyptus oil was first produced.

Here’s the challenge: Loddon’s artisanal food and beverage producers don’t have the critical mass to achieve a reputation and visitation comparable to other major wine regions but it’s growing steadily. Operators there are passionate, and there’s sufficient scale to warrant formal collaboration in events, market development, and distribution/logistics. Why does the region not have critical mass yet?

broadacre croppingLoddon Shire has been a broadacre farming area for the past 150 years, known for livestock and grain production. It hasn’t had the same number of growers who have become attracted to artisanal food as some other parts of regional Victoria (like Daylesford – Macedon Ranges, Castlemaine – Harcourt, or the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula). However, the area is now becoming recognised for the production of a much wider range of products (such as olives, wine, eggs, and value-added products) and the number of these artisanal producers has increased from a handful to more than 30 in the past couple of years – so critical mass isn’t far away!

Networking, food trails, events and agri-tourism experiences part of the project. Tell us more.

Some artisanal producers here have ‘destination stores’ where they offer a range of local products, as well as their own, to visitors. These places are agri-tourism experience locations and examples include Inglewood Aged Beef, Wedderburn Visitor Information Centre/Neighbourhood House and several wineries – but there is scope for more, and there’s potential to link the businesses with other visitor experiences into a number of trails and collaborative events.

You used to work as an executive at Nestle. What do you love most about your career change?

I worked at Nestle for 15 years in Supply Chain and eventually as Marketing Manager. I’ve always been incredibly passionate about the food industry but in particular the sourcing of produce directly from the maker and grower. By understanding the provenance of our products and creating a link between grower and consumer, it allows for more people to access Australian produce.  This is the main driver for me on a daily basis: to advocate for makers and growers and get more of their products in front of more Australians.

And finally, why is it important to support suppliers in Loddon Mallee?

Loddon Shire is part of the Bendigo City of Gastronomy and it’s important for Victorians to know that this UNESCO recognition of a gastronomy region extends beyond the long-established food centres around Bendigo and Heathcote, Mount Alexander, Hepburn and Macedon Ranges and into the northern parts of Loddon Campaspe. The COVID 19 pandemic has strongly reminded us all that Australia must continue to have secure food production. Not just bulk commodities, but higher-value sustainable, small-scale products that people can trust because they’re among the world’s best.

Eucalyptus still



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