Region has 'enormous potential' in food tourism

THE Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday region is relatively unknown when it comes to food production and yet our region is the largest winter vegetable growing region in Australia.

The region has almost 5% of the national beef herd and we currently produce a large array of products from tropical fruits to award winning rum.

"We are starting to actualise, in a planned way, our enormous potential in the food sector," said Mayor Anne Baker, Isaac Regional Council.

When most food lovers are asked to name famous food regions, places like Barossa Valley, Margaret River and Tasmania spring to mind readily.  

We are calling for passionate foodies to step up to the plate and get involved in spreading our region's food story.

All this is about to change with the implementation of the recently developed Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Food and Agritourism Strategic Action Plan.

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Initiated by the State Government and developed by the regional food community, the focus of this strategy is to drive food industry development by creating a farm to plate value chain to change the region's reputation so that it becomes famous for high quality food and food experiences.

"Our primary production is already significant, however we can create other layers of value and new industries by creating a regional farm to plate value chain, creating new jobs and investment for our regional economy", said Mayor Jennifer Whitney, Whitsunday Regional Council.

Several partners including State Government, Mackay Regional Council, Isaac Regional  Council and Whitsunday Regional Council, Whitsunday Marketing and Development Ltd, Mackay Tourism Ltd and Bowen Gumlu Growers Association have been working with a range of farmers, foodies and chefs to lay the groundwork for this ambitious vision to become a reality.

With several initiatives identified in the strategy already under way, the next and perhaps the most crucial, is the establishment of a Regional Food Council to guide the implementation of the strategy and develop the region's reputation and food brand.

A steering group has been working for several months setting up the framework for the Regional Food Council along with the region's brand story.

The next step is to invite industry and community to step up to the plate and get involved to help reinvent the Mackay Isaac Whitsunday region and celebrate our incredible food story and share it with the world.

"However to take this from being an idea to an outcome, we need strong individuals who are willing and able to collaborate, to step up and nominate for the Regional Food Council," said Mayor Deirdre Comerford, Mackay Regional Council.

"The establishment of the Regional Food Council is not only to provide strong leadership and experience, but of equal importance is the bringing together of all sectors from across the region to work towards a shared vision for the future", said Rose Wright, Lead Consultant on this Farm to Plate initiative. 

"A significant effort has gone into creating the framework for the organisation, so that when the new members are appointed, they can hit the ground running on actions that will have an impact", said spokesperson Rose Wright.

Applications for the Regional Food Council Management Group are now open and will close on May 31, 2015. 

A wide range of skills will be required from industry and community representatives as well as individuals who are passionate about changing the future of the region.

You are invited to apply to become foundation members of the Regional Food Council Management Group.

Once established in June 2015, this Regional Food Council Management Group will invite the region's community and agri-food businesses to join as foundation members of the Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Regional Food Council.

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