By Victoria McGuin

Do you love food? Do you like to know where your produce comes from? Are you keen to support local suppliers and farmers? Are you part of the food industry and would appreciate support, promotion and networking opportunities?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then the Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN) is the perfect, not-for-profit food industry cluster for you!

Simply put, FAN aims to grow the food industry by supporting collaboration and innovation, and by driving trade locally and globally.

I recently met with two of the FAN team, Tanya Arnold (Member Coordinator – Sunshine Coast) and Martin Duncan (FAN Ambassador, Sunshine Coast Foodie and Bassett Barks Brand Ambassador), to learn how this organisation has been steadily growing over the last six years since its inception.

“I was attracted to join FAN because it was a supportive network of like-minded people,” said Tanya. “It’s an environment to eat, drink and make friends!”

FAN’s success to-date has been driven by facilitating opportunities for members to connect, increase their knowledge and grow their business.

“Our member meet-ups are quite unique,” shared Tanya. “People get to experience the culture of FAN and to see how other members are running their business. This can’t easily be replicated.”

The most recent meet-up was held in March at Vanilla Vine, a small family-owned and managed farm in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The family produces vanilla products, and from their Coffee Farm they make Mount Mellum Gold Coffee Beans.

“The Maleny Pie Guy catered the event as we like to support our members in every way possible to build their profile and bring opportunities to network,” Tanya explained.

“We also have our Meet the Makers trade show, which was created to provide opportunities for the ‘smaller guys’. This gives everyone a chance to connect on a personal level, and it can be an amazing opportunity for businesses to get their food in the door with larger retailers.”

Martin organised the first Meet the Makers in 2018 at Nutworks, Yandina, where there were 28 exhibitors and 165 ‘foodies’, including chefs. By the third event at Sunshine Coast Airport, there were 75 exhibitors and over 600 people.

 “Our next event is at Aussie World on May 3, as we needed a bigger space,” smiled Tanya, “but it’s still about connecting people on a personal level, and that’s why I love doing it.”

FAN is backed by a strong community of supporters and partners including regional councils, Regional Development Australia, Queensland Government and the Australian Government.

Martin Duncan is a self-confessed “people connector”, with a strong food background, and he embraced the early days of FAN, matching people who are passionate about food and driving the project with his unshakeable enthusiasm.

“We offer everything to everybody,” Martin said, “we understand it’s hard to be creator, marketer and manager, so we provide a friendly, non-threatening space for people to ask questions and find others to collaborate with.”

“Meet the Makers showcases fresh produce and food and beverage products from FAN Members from the Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Gympie, Moreton Bay and beyond.

“I love how industry and stakeholders work together to grow and drive innovation, it’s very exciting!”

When you become a member you have access to FAN’s entire membership and services. Benefits include information sessions, a grant writing service, business skills workshops, profiles on FAN social channels, access to the Meet the Makers trade show and much more.

“We can grow by working together,” smiled Martin. “Collaborating – that’s what it’s all about.”

To find out more about FAN and Meet the Makers, visit: foodagribusiness.org.au

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