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Southern Harvest steps in for fire affected community


A story from Braidwood in NSW, reflecting life in September 2020

“We had a lot of our member farmers and producers severely affected by the bushfires, some of them lost their entire properties, others had weeks of evacuations and were affected by the smoke and were just unable to harvest their crop,” explained Ruth Gaha-Morris, manager of the Southern Harvest Association.

Southern Harvest is a not-for-profit incorporated association run by volunteers. They link farmers with consumers, and shorten food supply chains through farmers markets, produce box schemes and by getting more local produce into retail outlets in Canberra and the surrounding region.

“It was quite difficult for a while” said Ruth.

“A lot of the roads were cut, producers had lost a significant amount of their growing space to fire or they were fighting fires and couldn’t harvest. This is where our volunteers came in because we were able to organise deliveries, and the volunteers would go and do the harvesting to support producers during that time.”

One of the local producers was Tim Wimborne from Australian Mountain Pepper.

“The fire first burned our place on the ninth of December, and it finished us off on the fourth of January. It was the same fire and we were burnt on seven different days over three and a half weeks,” he explained.

“The whole lot was burnt, we lost everything. That said we live in town not on the farm. So we didn’t lose our house but everything else went. The entire business,” said Tim.

Tim has been able to pivot his business. Rather than selling his pepper direct to restaurants and consumers, he has added his remaining pepper stock to bread and pasta products through a second business he started called the Braidwood Food Company.

As part of bushfire recovery efforts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) worked with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency to source and buy products from bushfire affected businesses to use as promotional material at major events overseas.

Promoting these products benefits small businesses directly and highlights their resilience, creativity and values. DFAT purchased Australian made products from more than 60 suppliers from fire-affected communities across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Tim and a number of other local producers were able to sell some of their products to DFAT.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, through its Bushfire Recovery Team, was able to support Tim to access grants which he used to purchase equipment that allowed him to add his remaining pepper to bread and pasta products. They were also able to connect Tim with business support services like Southern Region Business Enterprise Centre.

In the meantime, Tim has begun replanting his native pepper berry orchard and his new food venture is doing well.