AS far as community events go in the Gascoyne region, the 10th annual Gascoyne Food Festival is right up there.
It's a showcase of the region's diverse and quality food bowl and a celebration of the hard work that is done by growers, industry and locals that all play a role in the industry.
The festival comprises 10 events across August and September, kicking off recently with five key events, all held in Carnarvon: Taste of Gascoyne Sunset BBQ, The Chef's Paddock Tour, Frontier of Food, Art exhibition by Sue Helmot, Long Table Lunch and the Gascoyne Growers Market.
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With the event held across four shires, Gascoyne Food Council executive officer, Doriana Mangili, said it might be the biggest food festival in the world in terms of the geographic area that it covered.
"It gives producers opportunities to talk to industry people and chefs so they buy products from the region," Ms Mangili said.
"The more people we bring to learn about the area, we gain more exposure and it opens up markets for growers.
"The idea is we get producers together, industry people, wholesalers, retail customers, store owners and every year bringing different people to the region and showcasing what we have to offer.
"It's also about establishing and building long-term relationships.
"(The Gascoyne region) doesn't get a lot of opportunities to celebrate what we do so there is a really great sense of pride."
Every year the festival has become bigger and more exciting, and this year has been no exception, with the inclusion of two new events - Fiesta de Quobba last Saturday, at Red Bluff on Quobba station, 135 kilometres north of Carnarvon and Fire and Froth on Saturday, August 31 at Wooramel Riverside Retreat, 120km south of Carnarvon.
The most coveted event throughout the festival was the sold-out Long Table Lunch, which provided 276 guests with an eight course meal, prepared by some of Perth's top chefs:
- Carnarvon-born Stuart Laws, Showcase Events WA
- Rohan Park from Fervor,
- Melissa Palinkas of Young George
- Gord Kahle, Cook & Mason
- Leigh Nash from Dingo Sauce Co
- Nic Wood of Santini Bar & Grill
- Kyle Lyons, Otherside Brewing Co
- Chase Weber from The Standard;
- Scott Bridger, Bib & Tucker.
The meals showcased local produce, such as seafood, lamb and fresh fruit and vegetables.
The positivity within the Gascoyne horticultural industry was lifted even further at the lunch as WA Agriculture and Food Minister, Alannah MacTiernan announced the State government would be investing $1.4 million for new programs and upgrades at the Carnarvon Research Facility to support the sustainability, profitability and diversity of the region's horticultural industry.
"We are going to make horticulture rock again, we are going to be backing (producers) up, we are recruiting some fantastic people into the region and we are refocusing the Gascoyne Development Commission, which will be working closely with (the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development) so that we can get maximum value for all that is happening here," Ms MacTiernan said.
"There is no place that has a better mix of produce than this magnificent region.
"But we know that there are challenges here and we are absolutely wanting to work with your community.
"We want to bring government back into this place in a serious way."
The new investment will deliver a research program focussed on protected cropping, best practice management and improved biosecurity.
It will make use of new smart technology, including remote crop, weather and irrigation monitoring sensors, and a web-based interface is being developed to make information available to growers and researchers in the region.
"Horticulture is absolutely central to Carnarvon's economy and identity, and our investment - alongside events like the Gascoyne Food Festival - will help this sector grow," Ms MacTiernan said.
"You are blessed here, you really are, you have got so much happening here, it is such a magnificent place, you just need help to get across the line, to get that critical mass to really ensure that we can provide opportunities for people in horticulture, pastoral, tourism and to our indigenous communities."
Earlier this year, the State government announced its plans to reopen the Gwoonwardu Mia Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre at Carnarvon through a $2.5m investment.
Mollie Tracey attended the event as a guest of the Gascoyne Food Council.
- This story first appeared on the Farm Weekly.