While the Clare Valley is widely known for its wine, a group of locals is hoping to raise the profile of lamb in the area, with the inaugural Festival of the Lamb kicking off on Wednesday next week.
Organised by the Mintaro Progress Association, with funding support from the Building Better Regions Fund, the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council, and Meat & Livestock Australia, the week-long festival will aim to celebrate local produce, through events across 10 venues, mainly across Mintaro, Sevenhill, Watervale and Auburn.
More than 15 chefs will showcase produce from six local lamb producers, with farm tours, industry lunches, a wool and fibre fair, and a shearing demonstration also notable items on the agenda.
FOTL coordinator Simon Millcock came up with the idea for the festival about three years ago, after returning to Mintaro to live and realising the region's sheep industry was "flying under the radar".
"In the Clare Valley, we talk so much about the wine, but it doesn't have anywhere near the history as what the sheep industry does in the region, so that led me to thinking about having an event to match quality local produce with restaurants and hotels, and really making lamb the feature," he said.
Your head can align with the story, your heart can align with the ethics, but the product also has to taste good, that's where this festival will bring all of that together.
While COVID-19 has meant 2020 has largely been a year of event cancellations rather than event launches, Mr Millcock said it was "the perfect time" to launch the inaugural festival, due to the calendar looking fairly bare.
"Local accommodation and food outlets have been doing it really tough this year, but there is still the opportunity to host small and intimate events, while still working within the COVID-19 rules and restrictions, and it's so important we support these venues," he said.
Mr Millcock said it was difficult to predict attendances, but numbers would not be the key criteria of success.
"Rather than focusing on numbers through the doors, if we can get help these local producers to be recognised, that will be a win, and a good foundation for the event in the following years," he said.
LOCAL TO PUT FOCUS ON ETHICS AT EVENT
PLENTY of businesses have jumped on-board to be part of this year's inaugural Festival of the Lamb, with Watervale Hotel owner Warrick Duthy excited to showcase producers who are going above and beyond to provide premium and ethically-raised lamb products.
The Watervale Hotel will host three events during the festival, and Mr Duthy said education and traceability would help to contribute to consumer education surrounding higher prices for premium products.
"Your head can align with the story, your heart can align with the ethics, but the product also has to taste good, that's where this festival will bring all of that together," he said.
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He said the use of the whole beast, with no waste, would be a focus at the festival.
"I want to make sure the guys raising stock ethically can develop their products, and get a premium for their product, so they are recognised and rewarded for those ethics, rather than simply being flushed int commodity system."
Lamb at the Watervale Hotel is supplied by Mintaro's Graeme and Dianne Johnson, Martindale Farm, and Mr Johnson was hopeful the festival would "get the word out there" about the region's lamb.
"If people experience the lamb, and really enjoy it, and go home and tell their neighbours and friends, who then buy more of our produce, we've won from a farming point of view," he said.
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