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The sweet taste of success

The 2018 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, held in Tasmania this month, proved there are rich rewards for those who put in the work to develop their agri- and food tourism businesses.


“The potential for agritourism is significant if done properly,” says Regionality founder Rose Wright. “It’s like anything – you need to plan and be prepared to put the effort in to make it work. But when it does, the outcome can be life-changing.”


Three Regionality clients – who all participated in the Agritourism Business Development Program – discovered this firsthand when they were selected among the 200 national finalists at the prestigious industry awards.


Queensland’s Sarina Sugar Shed (Excellence in Food Tourism) and NSW’s Blue Ginger Picnics (New Tourism Business) both won silver in their respective categories, while Rich Glen Olive Estate took out the state prize to represent Victoria.


“I’m so proud and excited for them,” says Rose. “They’ve worked hard to get here. Our contribution has been to support them, build their confidence and ground-truth their ideas. They are stars and demonstrate what’s possible if you focus on the right aspects of the business.”


Small businesses can do big things

For Tania Usher, who only started Blue Ginger Picnics in July 2017, winning the award is “a huge acknowledgement that small businesses can do big things” – particularly in a category packed with larger operators such as Perth’s Optus Stadium and Launceston’s Peppers Silo Hotel.


The idea for her pop-up picnics business, which she runs in northern NSW’s Tweed region, was a no-brainer for the natural-born entertainer who loves to  gather people for a convivial meal outdoors.


“I’ve created a business doing what I’ve always loved – picnics! I just thought how amazing it would be to combine that sort of restaurant experience with nature, using only local produce, and give people the best seat in the house,” says Tania. “It’s all about creating memories.”


Developing an authentic business model that resonates with her personal values has been key to Tania’s success. “Our core values are plastic free, zero waste, 100 per cent local and supporting other businesses,” she says. That means everything, from the décor and crockery to the food, is locally sourced and reusable – there’s not a plastic plate in sight.


Cultivating a support network

While the entrepreneur isn’t new to the business world, she undertook the development program in mid-2018 to deepen her knowledge of the tourism industry. Since then, she’s worked closely with facilitator Rose Wright to “fine-tune” her business model and plan for future growth.


“I needed to have a community of people to help guide and support me in a space I wasn’t familiar with. The main thing about it for me has been the ability to collaborate with other people in the region and keep what I do local,” says Tania.


“The Regionality program gets you to cement your values and core thinking. There’s no room for wishy-washiness. It helps you get really focused and think strategically and make decisions. I feel like that’s enabled me to grow and expand the business and have the reach that we have.”


Creating authentic on-farm experiences

Being at the helm of an award-winning tourism business almost didn’t happen for Ros and Daimien Vodusek. When they took over the running of the family farm, her husband and his father were ready to pluck the 36,000 olive trees planted back in 1997 right out of the ground. “They really couldn’t make a cracker out of it,” she says.


Today, the Yarrawonga olive grove is thriving, along with the tourism-based business connected to it. As well as the 150 olive-oil-based products made on site and available to be tasted at Rich Glen Olive Estate’s farm-gate store and café, there’s a beauty room selling skin care and an educational centre.


“We’re trying to educate people about our culture and to know where their food comes, so we make everything on the farm,” says Ros. “Our products don’t have any preservatives. People can actually see where they’re grown and how they’re made – they can experience the whole farm life.”


By the time the Voduseks decided to participate in Regionality’s program, their enterprise was well established. But it did take their business “to another level”, says Ros. “It really made us look at what experiences we had on the property without even thinking about it – like showing people through the shearing shed or picnics in the grove. People love those simple experiences.”


The power of connecting regions

Ros is a strong advocate of working with regional stakeholders and is another reason she invested in the program. “I was really passionate about trying to inspire other people and get them to see what is achievable, as well as the collaboration – just bringing everyone together and trying to make Moira a really well-known region to come to.”


It’s a philosophy she practises daily in her own business, collaborating with local farmers by harvesting their crops, pressing their olives and also buying their oil. “We collaborate and we source as much local produce as we can – we’re really hungry for that. It has been quite exciting just seeing what is actually in our region. Ten years ago, we probably wouldn’t even have thought about that, but now that’s really important to us.”


Growing your agritourism business

The agritourism-focused Business Development Program developed and run by Regionality is Australia’s most successful and longest running capacity-building and business-mentoring program specifically designed to support farmers to innovate their farm business and move beyond the farm gate.

“Since we ran the first pilot program in 2006 in NSW’s Northern Rivers region, we have engaged with hundreds of farmers from across Australia who have innovated their family farm – tapping into new opportunities to value-add to their product and/or diversify their farm business to ensure a sustainable farm business,” says program facilitator Rose Wright.


“Agritourism is so much more than farmstays and animal petting zoos,” adds Rose. “Like Ros and Damien at Rich Glen Olive Estate, it’s a way to make a farm viable, to create jobs through establishing a direct connection with your consumer. It’s multiple layers of value-adding and when you build that brand and consumer connection, you are no longer a price taker – you’ve created a value proposition that’s connected to your property, your produce and your story.”


To find out more about the Agritourism Business Development Program or how Regionality can help you, email or call (02) 6674 1056.

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