Home ContentA Fresh Beginning - Genuinely Southern Forests

A Fresh Beginning - Genuinely Southern Forests

Published : February 09, 2017

Over recent years a dedicated group of locals from the Manjimup, Pemberton, Northcliffe and Walpole regions have coined and developed the "Genuinely Southern Forests" brand to badge their variety of produce of which they, and we all, should be immensely proud.

by Simon Owen

Genuinely Southern Forests

The region is one of the most beautiful in Western Australia and can compete with the best in the world but has, to be truthful, been left somewhat in the wake of the juggernaut that is the Margaret River and 'Down South' that has achieved world notoriety .... not that its reputation is in any way undeserved.

To accompany its physical beauty, and its distinctly country and 'local' feel, the Southern Forests boasts a cornucopia of produce that must be unrivalled by just about any other region in this country, let alone the State.  From the pristine dairy country of Northcliffe, now also hosting the State's maiden green tea venture, through the fish, marron, fruits, lavender, walnuts, vegetables, honey, buckwheat, cherries, beef, wine and the single largest producer of black truffles outside of France (and likely to exceed it) of the lush landscape that stretches up to Manjimup and beyond ... 

The region has always had a reputation for some things such as apples and stone fruit, with some significant operations well into their third generation and probably longer, but its historic industry of significance has always been timber.  The demise of the industry was not without its local pain, but the re-generation process has delivered us so much more than saving some of the most stunning forest country in the world with around 86% of the region being either State Forest or conservation reserve.

Though I may be wrong, truffles were probably the first new major introduction some 15 or so years ago and now warrant their own bespoke festival, which by the way is one of the most lovely and rewarding weekends that a food lover or tourist could want. No doubt there were always some vegetables and other fruits embedded in the region, but the seeming explosion of alternatives has been accompanied by a new generation of tree changers (in both the metaphoric and literal sense) and small local producers who make up the vast majority of the Southern Forests' offering.

Via the auspices of the Southern Forests Food Council, a voluntary body established to unify and promote the region's agricultural bounty, and state funding (part of the $7 million allocation from the Royalties for Regions funding of Manjimup's Agricultural Expansion Project) this disparate group of locals has come together in a very genuine (pun intended) success story.

Beaven Eatts - Genuinely Southern Forests Food Council Chair
Beven Eatts - Southern Forests Food Council Executive Chairman and a third generation grower; an orchadist who also produces beef cattle and sheep.

From the Truffle Kerfuffle (praised above), the Cherry Harmony Festival, regular farmers markets and local effort and ingenuity, the range and quality of this region has slowly but determinedly made some commercial progress.  Whilst truffles do just about sell themselves in the national and international market up to a point, supply chains and tapping into both wholesale and retail demand is a tough game for the cottage industry even with a local peak body.  One lovely example I witnessed at the Truffle Kerfuffle 2016 involved a local farmer who is producing the most extraordinary array of heirloom pumpkins and squash.  Off the back of his exotic stall and infectious enthusiasm to communicate about his product, a visiting chef, Duncan Welgemoed of South Australia's Africola was so taken with this unique opportunity that he ordered a monthly supply which required the farm to increase its planting by a significant percentage.

 

After a considerable amount of effort and with the support of local outfit Allstates Farms, the Genuinely Southern Forests brand achieved an extraordinary milestone by branding their own market floor at Market City Perth. Described by the Minister for Agriculture as "the greatest innovation I have seen on the market floor in 21 years" hitherto obscure and artisan producers are now directly represented to the gamut of local wholesalers and retailers, with international potential.

The occasion also marked the release of the Genuinely Southern Forests retail marketing campaign which sees it partner directly with 16 local retailers from Mandurah to Mindarie.  Not only will both initiatives make available over 50 different variety of fruits and vegetables but also a range of local value added lines such as the previously mentioned honey and green tea along with non-alcoholic juices.

For a state still battling to come to terms with the volatility of the resources industry, this also marks a significant step forward for our second biggest industry, agriculture.  If one considers the direct and indirect contribution of the Margaret River region to the State, then the Southern Forests, with a vastly broader range of products and an equal tourism potential, must be music to any government's ears.

All that aside, my excitement is the prospect of being able to access these delightful products, support local producers to offer more and indulge on produce of such quality that we used to have to travel interstate or overseas to boast about.  In those immortal words .... "Do yourself a favour" and keep an eye out, pester your local retailer and plan a long weekend in the near future.  You will not be disappointed.

You can find Genuinely Southern Forests at the following participating retailers:

•              Peaches Fresh Food Market, South Fremantle

•              Napoli Mercarto, Harrisdale

•              Rustico Gourmet Grocer, Riverton

•              Gilberts Fresh Market Mandurah

•              Gilberts Fresh Market Midland

•              Gilberts Fresh Market Willetton

•              Gilberts Fresh Market Hilton

•              Fresh Provisions, Mt Lawley

•              Fresh Provisions, Bicton

•              The Good Grocer, Applecross

•              Canning Bridge IGA

•              Shenton Park IGA

•              Limes Fresh, Myaree

•              Supa IGA Wembley

•              IGA Leederville

•              IGA Wellington Street, Mosman Park

•              Basil’s Fine Foods, Mindarie

For further information visit Genuinely Southern Forests




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