The Food Council continues under a self-funding model as Royalties for Regions funding reaches a close. The Southern Forests Food Council was founded in 2010 by a group of passionate local producers who recognised that the wealth and abundance of produce grown in the region made it perfect for major food production and agri-tourism. The State Government also acknowledged the potential, and the Food Council’s role was formalised in 2012 after receiving a $5 million investment under the State Government’s Royalties for Regions initiative. The investment was part of a $7 million Royalties for Regions allocation to the Shire of Manjimup for its Agricultural Expansion Project. In 2018, the SFFC secured a further $1.075 million in State Government funding to support the Council’s on-going activities in developing economic opportunities for the region for a further three years.
The funding period concluded on 30 June 2021 and the Food Council gratefully appreciates the nine years of State Government investment in the organisation. The Food Council also wishes to acknowledge the bi-partisan support it has enjoyed from all three Ministers for Agriculture throughout the period: The Hon. Terry Redman, Hon. Ken Baston, and Hon. Alannah MacTiernan.
“The consistent strong level of Ministerial support and advocacy provided over the years has been heartening for the local agriculture sector and the community.” Kieran Kinsella, Chair of the Southern Forests Food Council said. “It has enabled the Food Council to provide a key link that has facilitated the flow of information, opportunities, and communication between government, industry, and growers.”
“The impacts and outcomes of the Royalties for Regions investment have undoubtedly resulted in a genuinely unified and energised regional community that proudly and significantly produces some of the State’s best produce.” Mr Kinsella went on to say.
The Shire of Manjimup have demonstrated their on-going commitment to the project both through an annual financial contribution over the next three years and a five-year lease of the Shire-owned facility on Johnston Crescent in Manjimup which is the new home of the Food Council.
One of the key achievements of the Food Council during this is the creation of the Genuinely Southern Forests brand which was launched in 2013 to represent the premium produce, producers, and region. The brand now has achieved 50% recognition amongst Perth consumers, and is well supported by local growers producing over 87,000 tonnes of produce each season.
The Food Council has adapted many times over the course of the project, most recently in response to the challenges faced across the country and the world during the global pandemic. “We have been working hard to get our core structure right to allow us to smoothly transition from being reliant on State Government funding, but like many businesses in the current climate we have plenty of challenges ahead to ensure the ongoing viability of our organisation.” Mr Kinsella said.
“We are calling upon the growers and all those involved in the local ag sector to continue their support for the organisation to allow us to continue to deliver outcomes for the region.” Mr Kinsella concluded.
The Food Council will continue its efforts and commitment in unifying the area’s world-class and diverse producers to strengthen the region’s economy, attract investment and export opportunities, promote regional pride, and create sustainable jobs. It will also continue to represent local producers, culinary and agri-tourism operators who live and work in what is WA’s premier food bowl. Its ultimate goal remains to establish the Southern Forests as an internationally recognised agricultural region and culinary tourism destination.