The gastronomic story of Bendigo and the region is one of creativity, challenge, change and resilience. As well as being home to a 30,000 year old sustainable food system developed by Traditional Owners, the gold mining in 1851 brought waves of migrants from all over the world, including England, Ireland, Germany and China, to the city, creating a diverse cultural and heritage layer. Now regarded as a regional gastronomic hub, cultural and creative industries account for 13% of Greater Bendigo's employment, with over 6,000 people employed in creative industries and provide an economic benefit of around $US 1 billion for the area.
Home to over 130 wineries and breweries, gastronomic tourism forms a vital part of city’s economy, with food, wine, beer and cider events held throughout the year. Noticeably, over the last five years, the number of events addressing key areas in sustainability, food production, climate change, primary production and innovation have increased and become significant in creating awareness and a driver for change. Events including Farming for Sustainable Soils, Australian Community Food Hubs and ‘Drawdown’ all align with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provide key opportunities for people to come together to exchange knowledge and collectively address critical issues.
In response to the challenges and impact of climate change on the region, the city aims to rediscover its vital culinary culture and endorse sustainable living through a number of government and charity funded initiatives, including PepperGreen Farm. This not-for-profit social enterprise supports people with disabilities to gain skills and work experience through social and wellbeing activities focused on growing healthy food. Other voluntary schemes supporting sustainability with the gastronomic sector includes Foodshare, which collects and distributes food to relief charities and schools. By engaging in particular with a number of SDGs, Bendigo is focusing on healing its land and repairing the traditional food system, with the hope of creating a healthy and inclusive city.
As a Creative City of Gastronomy, Bendigo envisages:
- perserving knowledge and best practices from one of the world's oldest living culture and a sustainable food system thousands of years old;
- creating an ideal 'living lab' for pilot projects and initiatives between different sectors, such as the CityStudio programme and the collaboration between council, citizens and universities to create an Internet of Things network;
- sharing learnings internationally to help others adapt, mitigate and move towards more sustainable practices; and
- ensuring placing culture and creativity at the heart of future plans.