Goondiwindi’s month-long Discover Farming initiative is slowly but surely changing conversations about agriculture.

Story Terri Cowley   Photo Grace Cobb

Sam Coulton’s frustration at the misinformation about Australian farming is palpable. The Goondiwindi Cotton owner believes farmers have done a great job of feeding and clothing Australians, but a poor job of educating them about it. “We’re being hemmed in,” he says. “We’re seeing decisions made on the east coast – decisions that affect the everyday livelihoods of farmers – as a result of social media. It can have a big impact politically.”

That’s one of the reasons Sam was happy to throw his considerable influence behind Discover Farming – a grassroots, month-long festival that was held for the second time in Goondiwindi, Qld, in May, attracting some 4000 people. It’s a template that could be used by other regions keen to connect consumers with producers.

“It’s to educate the consumer and I’m talking east of the range,” Sam says. “The main reason I stepped in is because we’ve got to get out there and educate those people. Their decisions are going to affect our food in the long run.”

Sam’s family was one of the first to grow cotton in the Macintyre Valley about 40 years ago. In 1991 he diversified into clothing manufacturing. “We’ve been running a bus tour at Goondiwindi Cotton for the past 13 years,” he says. “It’s been working very successfully, but it’s more grey nomads. Discover Farming is aimed at bringing younger people to town.”

This year, the program involved about 20 farms that produce grain, olive oil, vegetables, free-range chickens, cattle, lamb, organic dairy products, pork, cotton, lavender and agricultural equipment. Events included educational farm tours, tasting tours, art exhibitions, an opera concert and a huge seven-course degustation dinner highlighting local produce.

This story excerpt is from Issue #126

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2019