Don't wait, do it now advice from agri-tourism operator

Don't wait, do it now advice from agri-tourism operator


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DRIVE: Agri tourism advocate Ros Vodusek, Rich Glen Olive Estate, Yarrawonga, says farmers take so much of what they do for granted without realising the potential for providing city-based consumers with an on-farm experience. Photo supplied by Rich Glen.

DRIVE: Agri tourism advocate Ros Vodusek, Rich Glen Olive Estate, Yarrawonga, says farmers take so much of what they do for granted without realising the potential for providing city-based consumers with an on-farm experience. Photo supplied by Rich Glen.

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What farmers do every day could be the road to a agri tourism business.

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The take home message from regional agri tourism business operator, Ros Vodusek, is "if you are thinking about developing an on-farm experience or product, then just do it".

Ms Vodusek is a driving force behind a diverse olive growing, processing and marketing enterprise along with agri tourism, Rich Glen Olive Estate, Yarrawonga, with husband Daimien.

She is one of a range of speakers at the Farm 2 Plate Exchange, a discussion of ideas between Australian and international farmers, food and drink producers, chefs, tourism and hospitality businesses.

The exchange runs from Monday to Friday this week in the NSW Tweed Valley challenging farmers to "think outside the box to find new ways to connect directly with consumers".

Ms Vodusek said farmers "took so much of what we do for granted".

The on-farm experiences and natural foods, along with the paddock-to-plate experience, were real selling points.

"If you are thinking of doing something, just do it," she said.

Farmers could start small, taking products to farmer's markets to see how they went.

Exchange organiser Regionality managing director Rose Wright said people were producing profits on micro-farms and in urban agriculture using the latest in technology, tapping into farm tourism and selling directly to health conscious consumers.

"Chefs are even playing a pivotal role in educating people about seasonal foods being tastier and higher in nutritional value, creating menus around produce sourced locally," Ms Wright said.

"Farmers today are working towards a sustainable local food production system which doesn't require artificial inputs and aids in the regeneration of the local environment."

"Australia has some of the best food production in the world and I think farmers are trying to re-connect directly with consumers to educate them about how food is produced."

"To do this farmers are diversifying which is also generating additional incomes streams - selling branded products, creating farm tours, on the farm lunch and dinners, wellness on the farm as well as workshops on how to farm - the sky is the limit."

"Some farmers are establishing co-farming partnerships on part of their land to people who want to try their hand at different farming options."

Ms Vodusek said the Rich Glen business today comprised about 200 products.

It started when she and her husband decided to save some 36,000 olive trees planted more than 20 years ago by her husband's father, Franc Vodusek, and due to be bulldozed because of continual losses.

"When I married into the "olive family" the excavators were booked in to pull the trees out," she said.

She said the product at that stage was being sold below the cost of production.

"Franc is an amazing man but he had had enough. We showed some interest in the farm and decided to give it a crack," she said.

"We made a few products to sell at our farm store and it was exciting whenever a car came through the gate. People started coming back."

Ms Vodusek said people wanted fresh food and they wanted the on-farm experiences.

"The only way to develop the business was to make a profit. We started with small steps with the farm gate store," she said.

"It's exciting to keep reinventing agriculture experiences and quality products.

"We have around 200 products. Sometimes it's a challenge for our team to keep pulling me back as ideas pop into my head everyday," she said.

The success of the business and the need to stay ahead meant that many of the original trees had been puled out, but they had been replaced with an expanded number of new and different varieties.

"We all need to support our local agri businesses, working on collaborations between restaurants, clubs, accommodation to put our region as a real food destination on the Murray.

"We are working planning how we are going to develop an area of land that sits in the front of our shop. Our idea is a full on agriculture experience to get the city slickers and new generation to really get the idea of where it all happens."

She said it was pretty exciting what the next five years held.

"Our region has amazing things happening," she said.

Ms Vodusek said the business also needed to do a lot more training with its retail partners.

Kirrily Bloomfield and her husband, Derek, are the farmers behind The Conscious Farmer, and will be speaking at the event about producing high-quality grass-fed beef while using sustainable farming practices.

"The majority of our customers buy from us for health reasons as our beef is higher in antioxidants and good fats including Omega-3," Mrs Bloomfield said.

"There's definitely an increasing awareness of where food comes from and how it's produced."

Internationally renowned farmer Joel Salatin believes food allergies, vegans, gluten free, e-coli and salmonella terms were driving people to learn more about the food they ate.

"Today people want fresh food and information about what has come into contact with the produce as well as an assurance little to none is going to waste," Mr Salatin who will also be speaking at Farm 2 Plate Exchange said.

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