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Martha's bush food a winner

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THIRTEEN years ago she didn't know a wattle from a banksia. Now Martha Shepherd's bushfoods products have earned her Queensland's 2006 Rural Women's Award.

The Cooroy businesswoman beat four other finalists to win the prestigious Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Award, which encourages women's contributions to agricultural and rural Australia.

Ms Shepherd was awarded the $10,000 bursary for her plans to develop a management model which will enable Sunshine Coast producers and processors to work together and maximise profits.

But for the new Australian, the award came as a wonderful surprise. I'm just flabbergasted, it's a tremendous honour,¨ she said. I don't know why they chose me instead of the other amazing finalists but I think maybe they perceive that the potential of the model goes beyond our business and industry.¨

American-born Ms Shepherd moved to Australia in 1993 with 20 years of experience in the food industry but no knowledge whatsoever of Australia's native bushfoods. Four years later, she and partner David Haviland established Galeru, a small business transforming fruits of the rainforest into delectable delights.

It was then she realised the need for a model that would help small farms in the area become more economically and environmentally sustainable.

I realised an alternative growth model, in which everyone worked together, would help small producers and small players on the land secure their futures through sustainable growth.¨

The Value Chain Management Model is a business model in which producers and growers work with suppliers and processors to increase the value of the crop.

The idea is that a synergy is created and because everybody has interests in the crop, everyone is working together to build the value of it,¨ Ms Shepherd said.

Director General for Primary Industries and Fisheries Jim Varghese said Ms Shepherd was making tremendous contributions to sustainable agriculture in Queensland¨.

And, as for her unique business, Ms Shepherd said she would be teaming up with other small players to ensure its future sustainability.

There is so much more potential in a group than by ourselves and if small players team up we can find ways of keeping our agricultural land instead of letting it go to subdivision.¨

Galeru is also looking forward to exporting its products overseas.

As state winner of the award, Ms Shepherd will attend the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course in Canberra and is in the running for the National Rural Women's Award.



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