How long have you been in Myrtleford?
I was born here. My parents were on a family tobacco farm in Whorouly. They bought the Freeburgh caravan park and I did some primary school in Bright.
In 1974 they bought land to build on and Martin’s School Bus Lines in Myrtleford and I now live where I grew up.
Needless to say, I didn’t move far.
What’s your job?
I have a more than a few. I’m coordinator of the VFMA-accredited Tafco Myrtleford Farmer’s Market.
I do retailing for two of my cousins in Judd’s Menswear in Wangaratta and I’m a guide for Maeve O’Meara’s ‘High Country Gourmet Safari’.
What brought you to these roles?
The farmers’ market – I’m passionate about all aspects of farming, farmers and their social connections with the people buying their product.
I endeavour to be the bridge for our locals and visitors, to support and have a relationship with the primary producer and specialty stallholders who work so hard in bringing quality, local, fresh and seasonal products to the communities in which they live.
What do you love about what you do?
They really are just an important part of our wonderful lifestyle. I guess that’s how we fell into them, paid and unpaid.
We were recently filmed for ‘Food Safari Earth’, Maeve’s other line, which airs on SBS TV in October. I am really proud that our town and valley will be showcased. We are so fortunate to live in the North East with all its amazing gifts.
It truly is God’s country here.
What do you do in the community?
I have done a few different things over the years, including free adult classes in the library, but for the past seven years I have been on the La Fiera committee which celebrates all things Italian.
We are also able to raise money for the festival, for things like entertainment, by holding wild mushroom forages. They usually sell out quickly and I wish we could do more.
It is wonderful to see people coming from all over the country to enjoy the festivities, traditional food, wine and great music. The festival is growing each year – a unique community event to be very proud of.
What’s the most significant current community issue for you?
For me the one that is ever present is the substance abuse in and around our town. In particular, the ‘ice’ epidemic is alarming.
This terrible drug gives a person an energy rush and huge confidence, and can lead to local crimes such as theft, for the need to feed their addiction, and it so effects the whole community.
What’s the most significant world issue for you?
Food waste is heartbreaking. Almost half of the world’s food grown and produced is never consumed and about 20 per cent in the home becomes waste.
This is money hard earned and thrown in the bin when you think about it. Plastics waste is just frustrating.
I don’t see the point of supermarkets removing plastic bags when the consumer is regularly buying processed foods, including ‘healthy options’, in plastic food pouches which are most likely never recycled.
If the person you’d most like to meet came to Alpine Shire, or was already here, who would that be and what would you show them?
I already have the pleasure of guiding in the Alpine Shire through my work, so the people I’d most like to meet would be our family’s ancestors.
I would show them their (rather large) extended families have grown and succeeded in something they only dreamed of.
They left behind their native countries and risked everything, including their lives, to come to Australia and finally settle in this part of the country.
Some people aren’t into family history but, for me, it has shaped who we are today and we should be truly thankful to them for it.
TEAMWORK: Franca Norris (right) with her mother Mary Bonacci (left) and Food Safari Earth host Maeve O’Meara.