There has been a noticable increase in the demand for locally grown food in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions. Purchasers recognise the value and benefit in freshness and flavour, as well as the importance of food security. There is opportunity for Mary Valley farmers to capitalise on this trend, through the establishment of a network of smaller farms that can work together to develop and service these larger markets for local produce.
Recent studies in the Mary Valley have shown that farmers are keen to meet the increasing demand, but are restricted by factors such as poor access to storage and handling facilities, high transport and distribution costs, and a lack of time to chase up these new markets while trying to increase production.
A project completed under the Mary Valley Economic Development Fund recommended that these difficulties could be addressed through the establishment of a food 'hub' - a local aggregation, marketing and distribution centre - that could be managed by a co-operative formed specifically for that purpose.
The formation meeting for the "Mary Valley Country Harvest Co-operative" will be held at 7pm Wednesday 14th August at the Kandanga Hall. Mary Valley growers and manufacturers of foods grown from local produce are invited to attend the meeting and find out more about the co-operative and proposals that may assist existing and new growers.
The primary aim of the co-operative will be to assist members with the sale and distribution of their produce. Some functions of the food hub have already been successfully trialled, and have definitely shown the high demand for local produce. Groups of families on the Sunshine Coast are supplied each week with produce from a number of small growers, with co-ordinated delivery. One of the instigators of the co-operative has also visited many other similar projects to examine their operations.
Elaine Bradley was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2012 to visit North Carolina and Virginia (USA) to see how networks of small farms worked together to improve their production capacity and collaborated with marketing and distribution. You can read the Final Report at http://elainedagun.wordpress.com/ For more information, please contact Elaine on 0459 225 399 or Lesa Bell on 0428 193 156
The Mary Valley
29th of July 2013