AGRITOURISM is set to boom in the Far North as farmers look for innovative ways to market their produce to a broader audience.
About 40 people attended a Farmer Meets Foodie forum to celebrate National Ag Day in Mareeba on Tuesday.
Agritourism, forstering understanding between farmers and foodies and capatilising on digital marketing strategies were the hot topics of the day.
Key note speaker Paul West from SBS television program River Cottage Australia spoke about the desire of Aussies to reconnect back to their food, while a series of panel discussions were held with farmers, chefs and social media experts.
Skybury Coffee business development manager Paul Fagg outlined the benefits his Mareeba farm had seen since opening a dedicated visitor centre.
“Agriculture is king, but tourism is not against it. They don’t compete, but can be used to compliment each other,” Mr Fagg said.
“We are at the forefront of coffee and papaya production in Australia and we have a strong brand recognition.
“We have a purpose built visitor facility, which drives awareness and demand for our produce.”
Mr Fagg said before the centre opened to allow guests to sample their produce and get an understanding of the business, about 80 per cent of their coffee was exported internationally, with 20 per cent going to the domestic market.
“Now it has come back to about 50/50 with the coffee centre driving local demand,” he said.
Mr Fagg’s parents-in-law established what is Australia’s coffee plantation in Mareeba, and was the first to export Australian coffee overseas in 1990.
They branched out into red papaya production about 15 years ago to diversify their crops.
Mr Fagg said adapting to trends and challenges was essential to surviving in the industry.
“We all know how to grow good crops, but we have to have one eye on what is driving demand,” he said.
“We need to look at tourism, have a consumer focus and marketing.”
Mr Fagg said a collaborative approach between farmers, wholesalers and food businesses were needed to ensure all aspects of the community from paddock to plate flourished.
“If we have a vibrant agricultural industry, it underpins our community.”
First-generation Hinchinbrook chicken and sugar cane farmer Daniel Cordner agrees.
He has been on the land for about two years and said city folk had a keen interest to know where their food is coming from and how it is produced.
Mr Cordner sells his free range Sommerlad chickens fresh from the gate at Bellasato Farm and said he was hoping to open up his property to visitors interested in the farming process.
Farmer Meets Foodie organiser Erica Hughes said the day was a great way to celebrate agriculture in North Queensland.
“Hopefully they got some inspiration from some of the farming stories, there’s quite a lot of new farmers in the audience so I think they would have taken a bit from it,” Mrs Hughes said.
“But also some of the cafe owners would be getting some inspiration about what they can do around social media, there’s quite a lot of conversation as to how they can work together to get more local produce on the menu.”