The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal is Australia’s most sought-after food and beverage award. This week we announce the six finalists. The 2019 medal winner will be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney next week, April 17. The finalists come from around the country and the quality of the entries this year is extraordinary.

Staple Bread & Necessities, Staple Classic Sourdough. Champion Professional Bakery

Staple Bread & Necessities, Staple Classic Sourdough
Champion Professional Bakery

With its crisp, brown nutty crust and tangy full flavoured crumb, Staple Classic Sourdough is skilfully made sourdough bread. Seven years ago, baker James Partington was an ad-man recovering from heart surgery. Told by his specialist to consider gentle exercise like ‘kneading bread’ he took this literally. A restorative hobby became a livelihood. James looked for the best local and ethical products such as flour sourced from sustainable wheat production. ‘I wanted to honour farmers who want to go and grow wheat that is harder to grow and not as profitable… but is more flavoursome, more nutritious and possibly something people are looking for,’ said James in a recent interview. In an industry where 25 percent food waste is the norm, James has zero waste. He sells every loaf he bakes.

Two Rivers, 2013 Stones Throw Semillon. Trophy: Best Single Vineyard

Two Rivers, 2013 Stones Throw Semillon
Trophy: Best Single Vineyard

Two Rivers Wines sits on undulating country near the confluence of the Hunter and Goulburn Rivers just outside Denman in the Hunter Valley. The property is beautiful, with notable buildings and sculptures looking out over a glorious vineyard. Owner Brett Keeping describes their environmental practices saying, ‘We sow a cover crop each year, use an organic locally sourced fertiliser, and we’ve got tree planting projects where we look after the river.’ While such biological farming practices are important, his aim is to also influence the thinking of other people and other farmers. The quality of his wine speaks for itself. It is a classic Hunter Semillon with lifted aromas of citrus and even an aromatic hint of heady sweet pea. A truly excellent wine.

House of Arras, 2008 Grand Vintage. Trophy: Best Sparkling

House of Arras, 2008 Grand Vintage
Trophy: Best Sparkling

It is no wonder House of Arras is a keen supporter of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as they both share the values of skill, passion and commitment. It takes this to make a cool climate sparkling like the 2008 Grand Vintage with its pale, bright straw hue and aromas of apple and citrus. The wine spends 7 years on lees giving it great texture and complexity. Management in the Tasmanian vineyards is done with strict controls to minimise sprays and plans are in place to reuse water on the property, which is situated near the Bay of Fires. A supporter of the local wine industry House of Arras engages and is supportive of local community groups.

NH Foods, Manning Valley Naturally. Champion Branded Meat

NH Foods, Manning Valley Naturally
Champion Branded Meat

NH Foods is one of Australia’s largest beef producers and the largest non-government employer in the Manning Valley on the NSW Mid-North Coast – it’s responsible for over 360 local jobs. At its processing plant, state-of-the-art meat processing techniques sees a much higher percentage of the animal being used, leading to less waste and higher profits. The water management at NH Foods is second to none with a closed-circle water system capturing all the water from the plant, treating it and then pumping it onto NH Food’s farm just 2km from the plant. ‘We either grow and sell crops to local dairy farms which enhances local milk production and creates profit; or we use the crops to fatten our own cattle,’ says Grant Coleman – General Manager Wingham Beef Exports, part of NH Foods.

Meredith Dairy, Marinated Feta Sheep and Goat Milk Blend.
Champion Fresh – Cheese & Dairy

Meredith Dairy, Marinated Feta Sheep and Goat Milk Blend
Champion Fresh – Cheese & Dairy

Julie and Sandy Cameron are pioneers in the goat milk industry, creating systems that help local farmers start their own goat farms, in order to supply milk to Meredith Dairy. Their marinated feta sheep and goat milk cheese is remarkably consistent with full flavoured blocks of soft and creamy cheese sitting in a herb-flavoured oil blend. It is truly delicious. The Camerons have a mostly female crew working on their own farm and factory. ‘We find the women are gentler with the dairy goats,’ says Julie. ‘They seem to have an empathy with the animals.’ Sixteen percent of the property has been set aside for nature conservation as it is home to the endangered growling grass frog as well as small flowering plants and reptiles.

Tathra Oysters, Nelson Lake – Premium Grade Oysters. Champion Aquaculture

Tathra Oysters, Nelson Lake – Premium Grade Oysters
Champion Aquaculture

The Rodelys are coming back for a second bite at the President’s Medal. Since they won the inaugural medal in 2006 Mother Nature has thrown curve balls at their beautiful and pristine site at Nelson Lake. Storm surges changed the very shape and water level of this estuarine lagoon and the Rodelys, dealing with the effects, developed brand new ways of growing oysters. Their state-of-the-art growing methods allow for the oyster to thrive without effecting the biodiversity of the estuary. (This writer has snorkelled about the oyster beds and can contest to the number of fish, stingrays and octopus.) Tathra Oysters also produces beautifully shaped and delicious oysters favoured by some of Australia’s most notable chefs.

Next week, Saturday April 20, we announce the 13th Annual President’s Medal, 2019 winner.

You can find out more about the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal at

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