Members of Murray Dairy’s Young Dairy Network came from across the region — including Finley, Stanhope and Yarrawonga — to share a night off the farm and celebrate Christmas in July.
The event, held at Katunga’s Monichino Wines on July 12, featured guest speakers Toni Barton, producer of Australian Lamb Bacon, and Jade Miles, a food advocate and orchardist from Black Barn Farm in Stanley.
Ms Barton and Ms Miles spoke of their passion for farming and the importance of agriculture to Australians.
‘‘Without farmers doing what we do, people couldn’t eat,’’ Ms Barton said. ‘‘It’s that simple.’’
Ms Barton and Ms Miles shared stories of their business journeys, which were not without ‘‘blood, sweat and tears’’.
Ms Barton, who grew up on a dairy farm in the Murray region, returned to farming after a successful career in marketing in New York with the desire ‘‘just to grow my own food’’.
She purchased 81ha and some Australian White Sheep, first selling her product to friends and later at farmers’ markets.
Her engagement with consumers gave her confidence she could sell her product at a good price; a price she felt reflected the quality and the work she put into it.
‘‘Through this relationship with my customers, I was really encouraged by the fact ... most consumers do actually care where their food comes from — many of them are invested in their family’s future, the food future.’’
Looking for ways to make more money from her product, she identified that lamb flaps, often treated as a waste product, could be used to make ‘bacon’.
After developing a prototype and testing it with chefs and consumers, the feedback proved she had an idea worth pursuing.
Both Ms Barton and Ms Miles concluded by encouraging the young people in the room to be bold and look for new opportunities that come with changing consumer trends, emerging technologies and networks.