- 26 November 2020
Regional Development Australia Southern Inland (RDASI) staff and Committee members ventured to the Yass Valley region on the 19th and 20th November, to visit and meet with local businesses and hold its last Committee meeting for 2020. After a long period of zoom meetings, the Committee and staff were delighted to host their Committee meeting in Yass and meet local community and business leaders. The regional tour comprised of visits to SELX Saleyards, Martins Fertilisers, Clonakilla Wines and retail store, Merchant Campbell.
Upon arriving in Yass, the Committee were greeted at SLEX saleyards by Director of SELX and Mayor of Yass Valley Council, Rowena Abbey. Cr Abbey explained how they incorporated the different features of saleyards across the country to create a state-of-the-art selling centre. As well as the employment SELX has created, the complex has had benefits for a number of local businesses, including Martin Fertilisers who are located next door, and take the bedding and manure from the yards.
Just over the road, the Committee were excited to then check out this incredible family business and find out just how they had grown from a small operation cleaning sheep manure out from underneath shearing sheds to one of Australia’s leading manufacturers of premium bagged and bulk potting mixes, fertilisers and garden products. Brendon Martin, owner and founder, showed the Committee around their impressive facility, filled with machinery, robotics and a huge hay shed. The business has been struggling to keep up with demand for their products following a rise in home gardening during Covid-19.
The next highly anticipated stop was to the well renowned Clonakilla Wines, where the Committee was greeted by David Reist, the General Manager and Sales and Marketing Director. Following a tour through the grapevines and processing sheds, the Committee were treated to a wine tasting. Mr Reist reflected on the vineyard’s recent trials and tribulations following the devasting 2019/2020 summer bushfires which wiped out their entire vintage due to smoke taint. After the tasting, it was no surprise that Committee members had to make a few purchases to take home to share with friends and families.
The final stop of the day was to retail store Merchant Campbell. Margot Shannon, owner, told the Committee how she had adapted during Covid-19, where she was unable to travel overseas to purchase stock for her store. Using whatsapp video calls with her contacts and buyers, Mrs Shannon was able to continue to source beautiful international furniture and homewares. However, she also pivoted to include additional local products in her store, from places like Lindner Socks in Crookwell and the Tumut Broom Factory.
To conclude the day of the insightful business visits, RDASI invited local council members, business leaders and key local stakeholders to attend dinner at the Clubhouse Hotel. After a welcome from RDASI Chair, Hugh Cooke, special guest Pru Goward, provided the room with an overview of the Go Local First campaign, run by the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia.
RDASI would like to thank all businesses and stakeholders for welcoming the Committee and staff to the Yass Valley Shire. It was inspiring to see how each business has adapted to the challenges over the past 12 months, from bushfires to Covid-19. The RDASI Committee look forward to following the progress of each of these businesses as they continue to grow and look forward to being back in beautiful Yass soon.