From around the nation are gathered the best of the best foods and wine. Tested for taste, assessed for sustainability: the nominated products are scrutinised under the microscope to ensure a rock solid triple bottom line. In the end there can be only one winner of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal.
It is the most sought-after food and beverage award in the nation. A weighty, gleaming silver medallion engraved with the words: ‘Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal’. With it comes prestige, admiration from the food industry and the right to carry the logo on the winning product’s packaging. This signals to every person who see that bottle of wine, that block of cheese, that loaf of bread, that not only is this product the very best in its field, but a product built on industry best practice plus exemplary social and environmental values. In other words, the winning product is delicious – with an immaculate triple bottom line.
There is nothing like the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal in the nation and it has seen some of the best loved products win. Products such as the thick and delicious Bulla cream, the fragrant and excellent quality Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Hardy’s crisp 2004 Eileen Chardonnay have taken out the prize. The first winners back in 2006 were Gary and Jo Rodley from Tathra Oysters.
They grow Sydney rock oysters in the clear, pristine waters of Nelson Lake, a few kilometres north of Tathra on the South Coast of New South Wales. Owners Gary and Jo Rodely were thrilled with the recognition and also the $10,000 prize money. ‘Being a small business, that prize money was especially significant for us,’ Jo says. ‘We immediately spent it on increased infrastructure which, years later, is still having a significant ‘multiplier effect’ on our bottom line.’
Gary adds, ‘We’ve been farming for 30 years,’ he says with a proud grin. ‘The process felt like a rigorous and far ranging examination of our integrity as producers. To pass such a test is a great validation of a life’s commitment. This is why we hold the winning of the medal as our proudest achievement.’
To make it through to the shortlist of six, the finalists need to have won their category at the Sydney Royal Show Fine Food awards, such as Best Champion Meat, for example. Dozens of category winners enter their submissions, 20 are chosen for further assessment, but only six are selected as finalists. Part of the judging process is making sure the product is market ready. The food or beverage is presented to a chef and a food media editor who assesses the product.
The chef will make sure that it is suitable to be used in a commercial kitchen while the editor looks at the product’s X factor. They need to make sure that it has a great back story and brand values that will resonate with the general public and really leap off the shelf. The judges, including TV Chef and food expert and Ed Hamalgi, then travel around the nation spending time not only seeing the operations of the food and drink growers or makers in the flesh but also seeing how the businesses impact their community.
A great example of this is last year’s winner Brasserie Bread, Flinders Ranges Sourdough. This golden crusted and full flavoured bread is made with old fashioned varieties of wheat that are no longer grown on large scales. These wheat varieties have a lot more flavour but are harder to grow. Brasserie Bread teamed up with farmers who could demonstrate they didn’t just have passion for growing these wheats, but who showed they cared for their environment. The farmers needed to be ‘regenerative’, actually putting more organic material and nutrients back into their soil than they were extracting by growing grain. They had to care for their soil and protect the waterways. Some of the farmers working with Brasserie Bread were able to hire extra workers.
In small communities a worker with a family puts money into local stores and children into schools – this helps to keep small schools open. The amount of research that goes into determining the winner is both remarkable and admirable. But it all instills confidence in the medal, because the winner of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal doesn’t just make or grow delicious food or drink, they are helping their communities and also helping the earth.
Hero photo credit: Hugh Stewart, Destination NSW
Next week, Saturday April 13, we announce the 13th Annual President’s Medal nominations. The winner will be announce Saturday April 20.
You can find out more about the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal at rasnsw.com.au/presidentsmedal