Community pride swells at Mypolonga as ag town of the year judges visit

Whether it wins or loses the 2021 award, an innovative town on the River Murray is now closer-knit and prouder than ever.

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Whichever way the judges go in South Australia’s ag town of the year awards, Mypo residents reckon they’re on a winner.

This Wednesday turned into a celebration of the town’s historic past, innovative present and promising future as the awards’ judges were treated to the best of everything Mypolonga offers.

Rob Kerin, John Rothwell and Belinda Cay tasted apricot chicken from Woodlane Orchard, buffalo mozzarella from the SA Buffalo Company and treats from Aussie Apricots; they learned about the primary school’s internationally renowned shop, the Smart family’s robotic dairy and Des Wynne’s orchards; and they visited the century-old Mypolonga Institute, the RSL, Bakehouse Farms and the award-winning Rio Vista Olives.

Progress association chair Steve Hein, buffalo farmer Corey Jones and Murray Bridge Mayor Brenton Lewis served as tour guides for the day.

The tour culminated in a community lunch at the sporting club, where about 70 people feasted on locally produced food.

Even if Mypolonga didn’t win the award, Mr Jones said, the local pride it had brought out – captured in a video by local marketing firm Commshake, above – had made it all worthwhile.

“It will be cool to look back on in 20 years,” he said.

“We know (the community) is good, we’re just trying to show everyone now.”

As she looked over the lunchtime spread, Sandy Norris – who submitted the award nomination – agreed.

“Should Mypo get cut off from the rest of the world, we’d all survive just nicely out here, thank you very much,” she said.

Garlic grower Paul Cooper said something unique to the area was the number of farmers who had direct links with their customers.

“We’ve got buffalo milk that goes up to Woodside to be made into cheese; we’ve got guys like Donald Martin who grows absolutely kick-arse peaches ... and sends them to people who actually value them,” he said.

“People say ‘where the hell has this come from? We don't get this sort of stuff’.

“There’s a lot of people I see in Mypo now who want to be farmers, who are passionate about farming, who want to know their customers, and they’re saying ‘our product is actually worth something, and I want to make sure I realise that value’.”

In the same way that it took a village to raise a child, he said, it took a community to support a farmer.

Mypolonga was a place where agricultural start-ups like his could find that support, and thrive alongside generational properties.

The town was named one of five finalists in the competition last month after making it onto a long list of nominees for the second year running.

The winning town will be named on November 19.

Whichever way it went, history group volunteer Jenni Llewellyn said it had been exciting to tell the town’s story.

“I don’t think there’s any communities that come together quite like Mypo,” she said.