2009 Winners

2009 New South Wales Winner - Kim Currie

In search of a Regional Identity for Australia

At the time of the Award, Kim Currie was Executive Officer of Brand Orange and a regional food and wine specialist working in regional branding and tourism. Kim had 20 years experience as a food and wine consultant and her career included farmer, restaurateur, and regional events promoter and caterer.

Kim was awarded the NSW RIRDC Rural Women’s Award in 2009 and her Award ambition was to challenge first-hand the claim that “Australia could never develop a true regional identity”, by immersing herself in the culture of markets, festivals and agri-tourism of regional Italy and France.

The tour took in farm gate experiences, markets, events and celebrations in and around Provence in regional France and Piedmont in regional Italy.  Kim met with communities who showed great generosity and hospitality, who were proud of their culture and celebrating that culture and who were genuinely interested in sharing ideas in tourism and their wine and food industries. In Orange she was welcomed by a civic reception, while in Turin she was given an audience with the city’s General Manager and in Castelogni Monferado and El Palio she was taken up front and centre stage in their parades.

The tour proved fertile ground for new ideas and experiences. Kim found that our own producers, cooks and consumers are not far behind in the quality of produce and food, but are lacking in confidence and in the way they project and market themselves.

The most important lessons Kim learnt from the tour included the importance of promoting key strengths and the individuality of each region, success through simple things done well, the provenance of a single product is all it takes, the importance of protecting authenticity, and the power of town squares as the centre of celebration and culture within communities.

The tour showed Kim that Australia’s key strength is in its innovation, that it is a fresh stamp and an opportunity for food and wine specialists to make a mark and forge an identity never established before.

Kim’s tour opened up the opportunity for an exchange between winemakers and viticulturalists in Orange and Chateauneuf-du-Page and a proposal to pursue an officially relationship between NSW and the Government of Piedmont, with cultural and culinary exchanges being the basis of the relationship.

Kim subsequently became a councillor with the Royal Agricultural Society and Chair of the Fine Foods Committee. One of the committee’s projects was to support cheese making in school programs in NSW.

2009 Victorian Winner - Roma Britnell

Generating Discussion on the Ownership of the Dairy Industry’s Supply Chain and Implications for Producers

At the time of the Award, Roma Britnell and her husband had been dairying for the previous 12 years and owned and operated three dairy farms in western Victoria.

Roma was also Chair of WestVic Dairy, the industry development body for western Victoria that aimed to help advance the dairy industry in the region.

Roma’s Award ambition is to generate discussion within the dairy industry on the dramatic shift in ownership of the supply chain and implications on returns to dairy farmers.

Since deregulation in the late 80’s the Australian dairy industry had witnessed a significant decrease in the market share of farmer owned cooperatives and a significant increase in foreign ownership by multinationals. The increased market share of multinationals had significantly diminished the market power of famers and their ability to negotiate on farm gate price.

Roma’s Award ambition involved a study tour of Europe to gain a greater understanding of the issue and to build an awareness campaign to effect discussion amongst farmers on the changed market environment.

The study tour took in eight countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, and involved a total of 40 meetings with industry representatives and numerous farm and milk processing tours.

The tour confirmed the importance with which European farmers regard the issue of supply chain ownership and the importance of ownership as an issue that Australian farmers need to be concerned and informed about.

The tour also confirmed that to attain the best milk prices, farmers should own or be able to influence more of the supply chain than milk production alone.

The next stage of Roma’s project was to orchestrate a campaign that raised awareness and informed dairy farmers on industry structure and supply chain ownership and engaged them to become proactively involved in their industry and build avenues where they can influence their returns and have greater input into their future profitability.

At a personal level, Roma’s knowledge of the issue grew exponentially, along with her capacity to engage and speak on the issue and to represent her dairy farming community.

2009 National Runner-Up and Queensland State Winner - Barb Madden

Beef Industry Indigenous Alliance

At the time of the Award, Barb Madden was co-owner and Chief Finance Officer of Smithfield Feedlot, a 20,000 head intensive beef cattle enterprise in south east Queensland and Chief Finance Officer of the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council.

Barb’s Award ambition is to establish a workable business model to forge partnerships between indigenous beef producers and the broader beef industry.

The Beef Industry Indigenous Alliance (BIIA) pilot project was developed to investigate issues associated with creating those partnerships and working together through the supply chain.

The project aimed to give indigenous producers; greater insight into the supply chain and its commercial benefits and the beef industry; new connections with indigenous producers as custodians of vast tracks of indigenous land, running hundreds of thousands of head of cattle.

The first step was to create a local model that could capture the knowledge. practices, resources and relationships critical to underpinning the work.

The local model engaged two separate indigenous beef producers, the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council and the Indigenous Land Corporation with Smithfield feedlot to provide the mainstream beef management and training.

The BIIA local model focused on four critical parameters:

  • Cattle from indigenous properties had to be used. 160 head were sourced from Cherbourg Shire Council and the Indigenous Land Corporation.
  • Identification of suitable indigenous trainees to be involved.
  • Engagement of Smithfield feedlot management team.
  • Engagement of key beef supply chain experts.

Comprehensive training of indigenous producers was critical to the success of the local model. Eight on-site training sessions were provided and included indigenous beef operation assessment, livestock induction and handling feeding systems training, beef marketing information, close out performance assessment and assessment of end product. On-site training was conducted across a number of sites including Smithfield Feedlot, Kilcoy Pastoral Company Export Works and Woolworths Brismeat Domestic Works tours.

BIIA confronted a number of challenges along the way, including entrenched negative perspectives within the mainstream beef industry, maintaining effective engagement with the indigenous businesses, understanding both parties resistance to change and gathering meaningful financial data to support the project.

The pilot highlighted the importance of communication to opening up new working relationships through business ventures, shared training and employment opportunities and revealed new opportunities for pooling employment and training at a regional level.

The project resulted in a number of key findings:

  • Breaking down traditional social and cultural barriers opened up opportunities for commercial relationships between mainstream and indigenous beef producers.
  • Development of supply chain relationships provided critical information on downstream processor and customer needs while improved understanding of the supply chain translated into greater capacity to make informed decisions and critical analysis of business operations.
  • Selection of appropriate indigenous trainees was critical and targeted workplace based training and assessment proved the most appropriate method of training delivery.
  • The principles of the BIIA supply chain can be applied more broadly to other beef industry sectors.

The pilot also demonstrated a number of potential new opportunities for the Australian beef industry. The model has the capacity to be replicated into other geographical regions, business operations and indigenous businesses and applied to other beef industry sectors. The model also demonstrated a real marketing opportunity in indigenous branded beef.

On a personal level the project challenged Barb to take the lead in ensuring open communication and collaboration between key industry players to ensure the project achieved its objectives.

The beef industry was broadly supportive of the project with industry experts willing to donate their time and knowledge and willing to explore new opportunities for engagement. Barb was in discussions with Meat and Livestock Australia regarding the future expansion of BIIA to different geographical locations and beef supply chains.

2009 South Australian Winner - Susi Tegen

Incubating and Commercializing New Business Opportunities

At the time of the Award, Susi Tegen was a livestock and crop farmer from the Limestone Coast in the south east of South Australia and the Managing Director of FREE Eyre.

FREE Eyre is a primary producer owned and driven company which seeks to identify, incubate and commercialize new business opportunities for the Eyre Peninsula.  FREE Eyre was the result of several years of drought, unreliable commodity prices and widespread fires and was born out of the need for the region’s farmers to take control of their future by having a stronger influence over the supply chain, building alliances and value adding opportunities the region’s primary produce.

Susi believes that groups of farmers by working together are able to achieve economies of scale that brings bargaining power, better research, development and innovation, and consistency of supply and quality. They are then able to not only change to meet demand but to also drive change.

Her Award ambition was to research ventures similar to FREE Eyre in Europe, the United States and Canada, to learn from their successes and setbacks in developing business ventures, in setting the foundations and in managing relationships in such a way they are able to grow and succeed. She believes the research will be of benefit not only to the Eyre Peninsula but to greater rural Australia.

2009 Western Australian Winner - Kirsten Skraha

Environmental Management and the Australian Viticulture Industry

At the time of the Award, Kirsten Skraha was a mixed farmer from Boyup Brook in Western Australia’s south west and Coordinator of the Blackwood Basin Landcare Group’s BestFarms Environmental Management Systems (EMS).

Kirsten’s Award ambition is to explore and promote better environmental practices and management within the viticulture industry, to supports its future economic and environmental sustainability.

Her ambition is relevant to all primary producers who are required to demonstrate and commit to implementing sustainable practices and environmental credentials. She believes that these credentials will become increasingly important to producers in gaining customer recognition and market share at a time of surplus grape and wine production.

Kirsten has seen environmental management systems develop and become widely accepted within the viticulture industry. Her particular focus was the many smaller producers, who do not necessarily have the resources to implement broad scale changes.

Her four key award objectives were to:

  • Improve her knowledge of working practical systems within the viticulture industry.
  • Document and communicate the stories and knowledge captured to motivate and encourage others to adapt such practices within industry.
  • Become involved in and contribute to the industry at a state and national level.
  • Encourage other rural women to actively work towards their goals and to be proud of the contributions they make to their own communities and industries.

Kirsten undertook a two week study trip to research environmental practices within the viticulture industry. She met with individual producers, companies and regional representatives in Adelaide and regional South Australia including McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills and in regional NSW including Orange and Mudgee.

Resources and relevant practices learned from the trip were incorporated into the BestFarms Environmental Management System. The research trip also provided valuable producer feedback into the National Environmental Stewardship Recognition Framework (Entwine) developed by the Wine Federation of Australia and launched in November 2009.

The research trip highlighted to Kirsten the importance of a higher level of communication and collaboration across wine producing regions, on the diversity of environmental management and production efficiency initiatives, and the importance of a national recognition framework that is flexible enough to accommodate to the diversity of drivers, while providing a clear message to consumers on industry’s environmental performance.

Kirsten was able to communicate the information acquired from the study trip as key note speaker to two significant industry conferences, the 2009 Western Australian Wine Outlook Conference and the TQA ‘Keep It real’ Conference, along with a one day workshop ‘ Good Environmental Practices in Viticulture’.

She believes that by capturing and communicating ‘good news’ stories and sharing with producers their knowledge and experiences with environmental management, she has helped raise awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship while assisting in facilitating open communication and better understanding of the challenges producers face across the industry.

Kirsten, in partnership with the Boyup Brook Telecentre, organised Women’s Days and also spoke at three key events which attracted in total 600 women from across the south west and south coast of Western Australia.

On a personal level, Kirsten’s knowledge of viticulture production and EMS application grew exponentially, along with her industry credentials and speaking opportunities, so improving her confidence and her standing as an active change agent within her industry and community.

2009 Tasmanian Winner - Jane Lovell

A United Approach to Environmental Assurance in Horticulture

At the time of the Award, Jane Lovell was Managing Director of Tasmanian Quality Assured Inc, a not-for-profit association established to assist producers meet relevant food safety and quality assurance requirements.

Jane has played a significant role in advancing the debate on quality and environmental assurance and food safety systems throughout the supply chain. She initiated the first ‘On Farm Food Safety and Quality Assurance Conference’ in 1997. The conference rapidly developed to become the premier event for food safety and quality assurance for primary production and in particular for the horticulture industry. She has been involved in numerous presentations and published widely and has contributed to the development of a number of food safety and environmental codes and industry quality systems.

Jane’s Award ambition was to develop an environmental assurance framework that promotes the uptake of environmentally sustainable practices, but takes into account the commercial realities of primary production.

Food safety and quality assurance systems on farm in Australia have been plagued with criticism and resistance, the result, in part, of demands on growers to introduce multiple systems to meet the requirements of different retailers, processors and government authorities.

At the ‘Keep It Real’ Conference in August 2007, primary producers were united in their call for a single environmental assurance system. The concept progressed in 2008 at a meeting of horticultural industry leaders, where it was agreed a standard recognition framework be investigated.

Jane’s ambition demanded that she possess advanced facilitation skills, to enable her to bring a range of stakeholders together to support the creation of the Environmental Systems Recognition Framework for the Australian Horticultural Industry.

She attended the International Association of Facilitation Conference and associated workshops, held in Oxford in September 2009, to explore a range of facilitation approaches and investigate organisational analysis and transformational techniques.

Jane’s broad Award objective was to avoid the need for Australian primary producers to implement and manage multiple environmental assurance systems. This translated into her real Award objective of enhancing her capacity to facilitate conversations around the expectations of retailers and producers and to negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome.

The methodology used involved communication with growers, grower organisations, processors and retailers, all involved in the supply chain, combined with a review of existing national and international environmental systems, before drafting a relevant and workable framework. The draft framework was delivered to industry at a national workshop held in conjunction with the ‘Keep it Real 2009’ conference.

Support for the development of the framework and associated recognition processes was also received from the Federal Government, through the Caring for Our Country Program, with the project managed by Horticulture Australia Ltd.

The draft framework addressed a number of specific compliance areas including: chemical management, fertilizer and soil additive management, land & soil management, water management, biodiversity, waste & pollution management, energy, climate change, internal systems management, system integrity control and auditors.

While Jane’s Award project achieved its broad aim of trialling a recognition framework and process, it was not without its challenges and was yet to receive the full endorsement of the major domestic retailers.

The framework was a ground-breaking achievement and has the potential, once signed off by all parties, to deliver significant and sustainable benefits to a range of stakeholders while minimizing the cost of compliance to primary producers.

At a personal level, the Award has provided Jane with the resources to improve upon her facilitation skills and enabled her the opportunity to network and advocate more broadly across the total supply chain.

2009 Northern Territory Winner - Mischelle Hill

Australian Grown & Produced – The Best Option

At the time of the Award, Mischelle Hill and her husband had recently relocated to Adelaide, having spent the previous decade intrinsically involved in the family mango plantation in the Northern Territory.

Mischelle’s Award ambition was to gain essential knowledge of and contacts in the major food regions in Australia, to promote Australian grown and made produce, and to establish an Australian made and grown, direct from farm to food outlet business, to promote Australian produce and support higher returns back to Australian farmers.

At the time of the Award there were no specialist stores that focused only on retailing and servicing Australian gourmet food items.

Mischelle’s project involved a study tour of a number of mainland states, to grow her knowledge and contacts in gourmet produce and related value adding enterprises. The study tour included Perth, Darwin, Adelaide and regional NSW and South Australia and included visits to a number of gourmet produce enterprises including Maggie’s Place in WA, Food Connect in SA, and Jones the Grocer and Derriwill Farms in Adelaide.

In addition Mischelle undertook a professional development program at the Academy of Enhanced Performance.

Mischelle’s ambition was to have the business up and running by 2011. She separated her enterprise Ausflavours into two entities, allowing Ausflavours to focus on the marketing and promoting of Australian produce and retaining the profits to support various projects which assist rural Australia, with the second entity the Business Principal to continue to act as a consulting and auditing company, focusing on the development and the application of quality and environmental principles for rural industries.

Following her Award tenure Mischelle completed a Masters in Environmental and Business Management through the Newcastle University. She was invited on to the Board of Heart Kids SA, an organisation committed to raising awareness and providing support to those people affected by childhood heart disease.