Millie Byrne and Julie Howard. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

BECOMING a UNESCO city of gastronomy would link Bendigo with cities such as Parma in Italy and Tucson and San Antonio in the United States.

As the bid for recognition in UNESCO’s creative cities initiative was launched this week, food producers, restauranteurs, academics and the City of Greater Bendigo thought about the opportunities to drive wholesale change in the region’s food sector.

Bridgeward Grove Olives and Art Farm Gate owner Julie Howard said the ambitious project could focus attention on getting conditions right for farmers, such as water and soil health.

“And dare I be an idealist, but it is a wonderful opportunity to create a city that is healthy with all the nutritional education that goes with it, and minimising the intake of certain foods, the sugars and all the things that are helping us to be healthy,” Ms Howard said.

The council is driving the application and must satisfy criteria to be recognised as a creative city.

The first stage will be asking people to contribute ideas, and forming an advisory group.

Identifying food culture and history will be a major component of the application, as well as food’s economic role.

The experience and knowledge of the Dja Dja Wurrung community will be key to the application.

“We have really had a sustainable food system here for thousands of years and we need to recognise it and celebrate it because as we move forward, the sustainability of our food system will be incredibly important but we have already got 40,000 years of learning about how we live in this landscape,” council’s regional sustainable development manager Trevor Budge said.

Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chair Trent Nelson said food and fibre was an important part of the landscape.

“The reason I am here today is about putting ourselves back into the landscape, back into the eyes of the community, to share that 40,000 years of knowledge that has been passed down through our generations,” Mr Nelson said.

“We don’t have all the answers but it is about moving together.”

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said promoting the food sector in Bendigo was the new economy the region was aiming for.

“The application looks at everything from primary production and consumption, and it is about us talking to the producers, farmers, wine, bear, cider makers, food manufacturers, restaurants, food lovers and the whole community about this bid,” she said.

“It is about putting our food and beverage industries on the map.”

– Sharon Kemp