2021 AgTown of the Year Awards
Drought is hard on the town of Kimba. It has pushed its farmers to the brink of survival, emptied its shops in the main street and deterred cars from turning off the main highway from Perth to Adelaide for a visit.
“But we don’t sit around and complain, we act,” Mayor Dean Johnson says.
Kimba’s relatively recent renaissance appears to have begun with a mural that now shrouds its town silos and entices weary travellers off the road.
Then the free RV park opened at the sports ground and is now attracting up to 25 vans a night, the national Grey Nomads group since voting the site among the best in the country.
“We estimate for each van there is a spend of about $200 per person each day in the town and some stay three or four nights,” Johnson says proudly.
In a town where 51 per cent of residents volunteer for their community there is a feeling that if you live this far away from other towns and cities, you need to make things happen on your own.
And Kimba starts the path early. When kids at the local Kimba school last year said they wanted their own agriculture studies course their teacher told them to make it happen.
Students spoke to the council, parents and farmers and this year the course started with 35 students in the program. The paddock, seed, sheep, fencing, harvesting and teaching time were all donated.
Mayor Johnson’s own daughter Courtney is president of the Kimba Show committee that this year celebrated 100 years since the first event.
While another young woman, Ellen Zibell, last year won a sustainable agriculture scholarship and is emotional as she recounts how the town supported the on-farm Resilient Ag for the Future event she held with 80 people earlier in the year.
“How did this tiny community here in the middle of Australia build such an innovative community? I’ve realised the secret source is its community leaders,” Kimba’s new economic development officer Mel Garibaldi says.
“It’s a different kind of leadership, not where one person dominates, it’s more about a group of people who come together and make change, I’ve been really, really inspired.”
The community is prepared to think differently, whether it’s about being open to hosting the nation’s low-level radioactive waste site or tackling its problems with low rainfall.
On the outskirts of town is an award-winning giant retention basin created with recycled tyres that now captures Five Olympic-sized swimming pools of water each year to irrigate an otherwise dusty sports oval or bowling club.
When the town struggled to attract a new doctor, the community set about getting a brand new ‘doctor’s house’ and a new regional medical hub under construction – sure that their “build it and they will come” approach will work.
There is a new T-Ports grain collection site under construction adding capacity to the existing Viterra bulk storage site to help with grain transport challenges.
BIG Fig, the Buckleboo Farm Improvement Group, is now the largest grower group in the state, overseeing trials with ag scientists around growing better wheat, barley, canola or lentil crops.
“I’m one of the founding members from the 1990s,” farmer Graeme Baldock says from his property where lentil harvest is beginning.
“It’s really inspired a bit of innovation and adoption of new farming and research.”
His wife Heather is another of those innovators in town, she and Graeme are among four local families who founded the highly successful Workshop 26 in the main street.
After a few glasses of bubbles, the idea was born to create a home for microbusinesses like candlemakers, potters, soapmakers and antique sellers. The group bought an empty garage in town and began shovelling away 90 years’ worth of grease to make way for a series of shipping container stalls.
Their idea has helped draw more money into the town and more businesses, with every empty shopfront in the town now filled.
“It is part of Kimba’s journey in innovation and in stopping the decline in our population,” Heather says.
The winner of the 2021 Agricultural Town of the Year will be announced on Friday evening at the Adelaide Hills Convention Centre as part of Solstice Media’s Regional Showcase program. The final town visit is Mypolonga tomorrow.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.