HEPBURN Shire Council hopes a new premium produce hub in the region could bring agricultural and economic benefits to existing and future businesses.
The state government has announced $570,000 towards the hub, in addition to the council's contribution of $150,000 to kick-start the project.
The funding, provided for a three-year pilot, will allow for the employment of a staff member to help small-scale farmers and producers living and working within Hepburn Shire and the wider Central Highlands region.
Hepburn Shire chief executive officer Evan King said the staff member could offer a range of services to those working within or wanting to get into the premium produce industry.
The Hub for Premium Produce project aims to help farmers and producers navigate through the regulatory processes and unlock opportunities. It also aims to bring the sector together so it can work cohesively.
Through the project, networking opportunities will be facilitated and the skills and capacity of the sector will be built on so it can continue to grow and thrive.
It will also provide a clear link with the government to assist in advocating for the sector in regards to challenges and opportunities.
Mr King said he was excited Hepburn Shire had been chosen to run the pilot.
Working with the Central Highlands Regional Partnerships and Agricultural Victoria, the council led the project to develop a business case to explore the issues faced by the Premium Produce Enterprise sector in order to develop potential solutions.
One of the issues highlighted was the growing state of small-scale farmers within the region, and a need to support it. If successful, the pilot could be rolled out more broadly.
Hepburn Shire Mayor Don Henderson said the initiative would have considerable economic benefits within the shire and across the broader Central Highlands region.
"This initiative will allow us to leverage on the great work already being done by these producers, taking these enterprises to another level," he said.
The Central Highlands Regional Partnership encompasses Hepburn Shire, Moorabool Shire, Pyrenees Shire, Ararat Rural City, the City of Ballarat and Golden Plains Shire.
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