It was way back in January of 2010; a discussion paper was tabled for consideration by the Riverland Winegrape Growers Association. The members liked it. They set about spreading the word.
The paper was written to encourage thoughtfulness about how the region could pull itself up by the bootstraps. The challenges of markets and climate had taken a toll. Major producers were in ‘withdrawal mode’. Gross margins were increasingly hard to find at all levels. Spirits were low and some had no option but to grab an exit and bail-out before ‘losing the lot’. Things were grim for sure. BUT the region had been down there before. Collectively, the growers and value adders knew that if they could find the energy to pull hard on the bootstraps and to do so in unison they would prevail.
The ‘unity’ word was lurking. At the end of that year, the same group of growers said to their winemaker partners in the region…’ why don’t we start working together’ and so the experiment began. That same year, they said to other irrigator groups and broadacre farmers in the Mallee, ‘why don’t we all agree what the common issues are and see where we can learn from each other and maybe support each other’. That was easy. All the growers and farmers who joined the discussion realised the strength of community. Collectively they had built the region’s wealth through investing and learning to grow food, then to send it to markets around the globe and in so doing create jobs for others. They also realised that by pulling together as a cluster of communities, they had built (and still owned) the region’s hotels, hospitals, sporting clubs, schools and churches. The idea of community effort sits comfortably in the Riverland.
With the relaunch of the Loxton Research Centre, two weeks ago, the sparks of energy and vision are once again in our midst. It makes a lot of sense to re-focus on the value to the region of ‘community’.
Not every aspect or policy to do with farming is common across commodities but it’s easier to list those that are than the other few. Ask any politician what they want more than anything and they will chorus: a single voice. We are well on the way to achieving that unity as a region of primary producers working together to formulate sound policy, so essential for industry and enterprise prosperity.
Image Source: safakoguz