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Kim Currie The Brand Orange Project

07 March 2011

\"Simple messages are the most effective: 'Taste an Orange apple, today.' Or, when we're promoting the Orange region's hero wine, Sauvignon Blanc: 'Are you Orange savvy.' They get you on board.\"

Kim Currie has spent 25 years working with regional producers in developing innovative ways of promoting, linking and supporting the rural sector through food and wine tourism. She's the original paddock to plate girl (Kim successfully set up a circuit of four farmers' markets in central west NSW to bring local produce straight to the plate) and has had careers including farming; restaurateuring; regional food and wine consulting; catering to numerous festivals including the Huntington Music Festival; retailing, as proprietor of the Rylstone Food Store; and now, marketing and business development as the Executive Officer for the Brand Orange project established to promote and develop the central west NSW region of Orange.

\"Projects like these, which are about promoting quality, fresh produce, putting famers in contact with community and the community in contact with what the land has to give them through the work of famers, are never about a single person, or very rarely. To be effective and have them work, everyone has to be on the journey, everyone has to be involved.

\"You can't do a job like this in a 30, 40 even a 60-hour week. No, it's got to be a way of life – a commitment to community... nor can it all be done by the same sorts of people. The important thing is diversity of approach and finding complimentary skill sets.\"

Work/life - what balance

For Kim the lifestyle commitment is not an onerous one. But as a self-confessed \"perfectionist\" and possible control freak, who enjoys big ideas and galvanizing people to the journey, she has learned along the way that when you create too much momentum, and whisk too many people into your frenzy of activity it can quickly reach a point where it will fall apart. It's important, she understands now, to have process driven ideas. To stop and implement a measured business framework in which you can judge what is being done and where the growth and potential for failure and success exist.

\"There are things I do not do well. I don't write reports well. I don't do process well. But without them you can build too much too hard and too fast and the middle gets all wobbly.\"

Girdling the wobbly bits

\"I have always had a strong sense of community, of the importance of being involved and including others in what is happening and of our social responsibilities.

\"As children we were dragged out at a very early age to do leaflet drops, attend community events. I remember when I was a student in the 1980s in New Zealand going to an Anti-Apartheid rally when the Springboks came to tour. I was a bit scared about going it was pretty radical to protest about that stuff then. And then, smack bang in front of me was my father at the same protest. He was my role model. He is why I care about people and about community in a micro and macro sense.

\"But I am not shortsighted enough to think we would have discovered and nurtured this part of ourselves as easily if my mother had not been ensuring the infrastructure was there to support us.

\"In any project it's about pairing back and putting a girdle on the wobbly bits or better still, never having to wear the uncomfortable thing in the first place because you begin with both structures firmly in place – ideas and values and the detail to support them and think where they might go and what they might grow into.\"

For Kim, it is the combination of these two complimentary influences that provide a much greater whole.

Team work

Deeply committed to producers and consumers, she believes communities can build on a layering of relationships through identifying leaders, communicating and establishing links. The ongoing success of the circuit of four farmers markets at Cowra, Mudgee, Bathurst and Orange, with its template of co-management with community groups and the development and adoption of a national Farmers' Market charter were all produced by establishing strong links and making emotional connections between the players, acknowledges Kim.

The ongoing benefits include: the generation of valuable income streams for hundreds of farm families, bring farmers into direct contact with consumers (there is a whole generation of urban dweller who is literally divorced from the origins of their food), help develop new products and new niche markets, and develop relationships within farming communities.

In her position with Brand Orange, Kim has helped establish Slow Food Orange, part of which includes the Glenroi Community Kitchen. The facility provides weekly meals and cooking lessons to communities within Orange's public housing estate area. Kim is also working to establish food awareness projects in schools, and laughingly agrees she may have been doing it longer than Jamie Oliver, who she very much admires.

And then there's the Slow Summer festival, a 10-day celebration of the Orange region built for everyone to join in.

\"It has three prominent themes Friends + Family; Leisure + Lifestyle; Nature + Environment and it's not just about food and wine but about really connecting and linking the whole community,\" says Kim.

Getting noticed

There have been awards for her work, the most recent being the 2009 RIRDC Rural Women's Award for NSW. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, these national awards were instigated by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) to celebrate rural women and their contribution to primary industries. The goal has been to provide women with the chance to discover their leadership strengths and build a greater capacity to contribute to the needs of rural Australia. They have also established a reservoir of female rural industry talent upon which state and federal government committees and professional associations can draw for expertise, diversity of thought and opinion.

For Kim her $10,000 Bursary will go to good use. She wants to establish how to take \"the farmers' market experience as a connector for farmers and rural communities\" to the next level. To do that successfully, Kim is looking to travel to Europe to understand

\"how the thousands of markets, many in town centres, enrich communities and provide significant social interaction, while reinforcing the role and importance of farmers\". By studying and experiencing the European model, she believes she will gain a greater knowledge of how farm produce is sold, distributed, consumed and celebrated. This will then extend her understanding for establishing sustainable long-term agri-tourism systems for Orange and as an example to others.

RIRDC Awards

The RIRDC Rural Women's Award is staging the Australian RIRDC Rural Women's Award 10 Year Reunion Forum on May 25 and 26 to celebrate its anniversary. It will bring together all past and present Award recipients and will provide a unique national platform for public discussion and debate on issues and challenges pertinent to rural women, primary industries and rural Australia, along with opportunities for new learnings and new leadership skills and valuable networking time. The celebration dinner on May 25 is in Parliament House and will be MC'd by Bernie Hobbs.

Key Achievements

  • My four children.
  • The first day of the Orange Farmers' Markets.
  • The Slow Summer festival. It really hooked people in.
  • Personal Passions
  • Community engagement.
  • Regional branding.
  • Changing spending patterns, buy local and taste place.

\"...I am not shortsighted enough to think we would have discovered and nurtured this part of ourselves as easily if my mother had not been ensuring the infrastructure was there to support us\"

\"I love Jamie Oliver, he gets that stuff (slow food, community involvement, getting people involved in the produce).

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