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There is a strong preference and demand for local food in WA, according to a researcher whose work earned her the highest award at a recent Young Professionals in Agriculture Forum (YPAF).
Emma Downsborough (24), who graduated from The University of Western Australia last week, grew up on a wheat and sheep farm at Burracoppin (283km east of Perth).
Emma has a double degree - a Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science) with first class honours and a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Business Law) - and is now studying psychology as a post-graduate "because it's a very good fit with marketing."
"I'd like to be more involved in helping local producers better market their foods," Emma said.
Living in a small rural community near Merredin in WA's Wheat Belt had made her consider the implications of producing food and the importance of price and other factors such as quality, she said.
As part of her YPAF entry, Emma surveyed almost 350 people online, asking them if they'd prefer to buy fresh skinless chicken breasts from WA and a fresh processed food (fruit yoghurt) from WA even if they had to pay more.
"The responses were heartening for WA producers," she said. "There's a high consumer awareness of local food and people buy local for freshness, quality and taste."
However, people were confused by different ‘buy local' campaigns such as Buy West Eat Best and Buy WA First and would prefer one strong message rather than the ‘label burnout' caused by having many.
Emma also found that people in the country were willing to pay more for locally produced chicken and that people born in Australia were willing to pay more for local yoghurt.
The YPAF highlighted the work of young professionals in WA agriculture and natural resources management and was hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Institute Australia (WA Division).
The awards recognised the work of tertiary students who have completed an undergraduate degree and were studying agriculture-related subjects at WA universities. Finalists had to submit a research paper and deliver a presentation.
Caption: Emma Downsborough with Don Burnside of the Agriculture Institute Australia (WA Division) and DAFWA Director General Rob Delane.