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Food Collective Central Coast Establishing the region's Food Value Chain

The growth and success of ‘local food movements’ internationally is widely recognised as delivering healthy, source-identifiable food as well as building local economic prosperity. This story is about how the Central Coast region of New South Wales set out to establish its own local food movement.

In Australia, regional food security, artisanal foods, sustainable farming practice, food tourism and access to local produce are trending food topics on social media.

Engaging in these discussions in any meaningful way and capitalising on the benefits of a local food movement is difficult when people aren't connected. For example, the NSW Central Coast produces an abundance of high quality food; yet local restauranteurs, caterers and clubs looking for the ‘local food’ marketing edge, have difficulty sourcing authentic, local produce and food products.

These sentiments were supported by one of the most comprehensive studies about Australia’s food chain, FOODmap 2012. Significantly, this study identified as its highest priority, the potential of local food supply chains to contribute jobs growth and regional prosperity. In 2016, RMIT University was commissioned to conduct a scoping study of the potential of a local food movement for the region.

The study found that; 'One area in which regional innovation and growth can be identified has been the food and food services sectors, notably related to the growth of local and good food movements, the growing demand for high quality and artisan produced food and food services, demand for more environmentally sustainable food production, and the growing emphasis on food provenance'.

The RMIT study, overwhelmingly supported the establishment of a local food hub

A number of food related initiatives were underway on the Central Coast. Being disconnected, this only fragmented the efforts of many good people. Businesses along the supply chain needed to act as community concern grew over source, traceability, and loss of nutritional value through food miles. The benefits to be gained through access to local food was firmly on the agenda.

Recognising the world-wide phenomenon, and seeing the potential for the Central Coast, these separate food groups coalesced under the Food Collective’s banner in 2016.

The challenge: connections, communication and strategic alliances

Establishing a viable local food value chain requires new channels to market, market intelligence and information sharing underpinned by agreed systems, standards and processes. While this might sound simple, these elements can't simply be parachuted in from elsewhere; these must be developed locally to ensure relevance and ownership.

Food Value Chains v/s Food Supply Chains

It is important to understand the difference between Value Chains and Supply Chains. A Food Supply Chain is a set of trading relationships and transactions that delivers food products from producers to consumers.

By comparison, Food Value Chains are strategic alliances between farmers, artisans, processors, distributors, retailers, wholesalers, restauranteurs, chefs and other supply-chain partners that deal in high-quality, differentiated food products with rewards equitably distributed across the chain.

Industry leadership

On the Central Coast, the critical first step was to bring together leading growers, processors, artisans, providores, restauranteurs and hospitality experts to make a committed and substantial start to building the region's Food Value Chain.

As leaders in their own field, they were aware that success would come from mutual reciprocity and bridging the gap between producers and consumers.

They also knew that establishing a successful food value chain required an agreed set of standards.

Together they identified and prioritised activities to maximise local opportunities and build a cohesive network.

The Food Value Chain workshops became the forum to focus discussion and develop an agenda to establish the Coast's own local Food Value Chain.

The workshops provided participants with deeper insights into what makes Food Value Chains successful. Time was allocated to collaboratively develop and contextualise tools, resources and strategies, recognising the unique attributes and opportunities within the Central Coast region.

As a focal point, the workshops put food leaders front-and-centre; contributing their valuable knowledge, insights and expertise in creating a regional paddock to plate solution.

The outcome

Completing the program in late 2016, members are now set to apply the tools, resources and protocols developed during the workshop, taking the Food Value Chain from concept to reality.

The future

Members of the Food Collective have laid the groundwork for the development the Coast’s Food Value Chain (FVC) – a strategic alliance between farmers, artisans, processors, distributors, retailers, wholesalers, restauranteurs, chefs and other value-chain partners.

As a Food Value Chain, we will act in unison to address growing community concern over traceability, sustainable production practice, decline of nutritional value due to food miles and the benefits to be gained by accessing local food and produce.

As one of 9 key focus areas outlined on the Collective’s interim website, community capacity building is front-of-mind. Promoting local food security leads to more jobs and money being fuelled into the local economy. Our objective is to work with producers, industry and policy makers to ensure security of tenure for our farmlands, fishing zones, and food production precincts. Holding on to what we have and ensuring our food security and building resilience is important to us all.

As we build capacity and capability, our longer term goals include engaging with institutional food service providers, securing a site for aggregation, demonstrations and static displays such as vertical gardens, holds member events, activities and workshops.

Membership base

It is important for the Food Collective to communicate a compelling value proposition and promote the strategy to other businesses along the food value chain. We will start a concerted membership drive later in 2017 with a view to consolidating a strong and resilient membership base committed to the Collective's values and standards.

Under the patronage of Julie Goodwin, local identity and Australia's first Masterchef winner, following is the membership base for the Central Coast Food Collective;

  • NSW Farmers' Central Coast Horticulture Committee
  • Restaurant and Catering Association Central Coast
  • Central Coast Plateau Farm Gate Trail
  • Peats Ridge Farmers Market
  • Food Integrity Group
  • Events and Tourism including Toast the Coast
  • individual business members - farmers, artisans, processors, providores, restauranteurs and chefs

Below is a snapshot of the Central Coast Food Collective's work-in-progress web page.

home page

As one of 9 key focus areas outlined on the Collective’s interim website, community resilience is front-of-mind. Local food security is a means of building resilience in a very real way. Our medium-term objective is to work with producers, industry and policy makers to ensure security of tenure for our farmlands, fishing zones, and food production precincts. Holding on to what we have and ensuring our food security and building resilience is important to us all.

The celebration

The celebration comprised a 7 course menu with produce supplied by many of the workshop participants. Pauly Mac, our local celebrity chef curated the menu and prepared each dish.

Growers, producers and suppliers gave a brief talk about the unique qualities and provenance of ingredients as each dish was served. The launch was a fitting conclusion to the workshop and acknowledgement of what had been achieved in a relatively short time as expressed by Paul McDonald in the following video.

Branding

Our logo

The Food Collective Central Coast logo is a strong statement of regional identity. It embodies the Central Coast not only in name but visually; the circular design represents the journey from paddock to plate, while the colours reflect rural and coastal imagery that characterises the region.

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank the NSW Department of Industry for funding development of the workshop resources and to Tocal College as the RTO delivering the program. Thanks also to Pauly Mac for preparing the wonderful dishes for the launch and Ray Fraser owner of Splash Restaurant Terrigal for hosting the event.

A special thank you to Fortunity for assisting with incorporation and Sharpe Design Solutions for the logo and ongoing website support.

Created By
Niel Jacobsen
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