Producers rejoice as Tasmania’s Launceston named world foodie city by UNESCO

Tasmania's main northern city Launceston is already known for its heritage buildings — but food culture is its latest claim to fame.

Key points:Launceston's food entrepreneurs decided three years ago to vie for the City of Gastronomy titleBusinessman Andrew Pitt says the city made the submission because of its growing food cultureLauncestonians hope the recognition will allow producers and growers to tap into new global markets

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has named Launceston as a City of Gastronomy under its Creative Cities Network.

It means the region of northern Tasmania — which is home to hundreds of agricultural producers, dozens of vineyards and has a rich history of flour mills — has been recognised globally as one the world's best food destinations.

Kim Seagram, who co-founded two Launceston restaurants as well as the Harvest Market, and is the chair of Fermentation Tasmania, said the honour was great endorsement for the city.

"It allows everybody to stand up a little bit taller and be a little bit prouder about what we do down here and it will allow people to really take notice," she said.

"We're now going to stand out as one of the great food regions of the world." 

Harvest market returns
Every Saturday, Launceston hosts a traditional farmers market called Harvest. (Supplied: Caroline Williamson)

What does it take to be named a City of Gastronomy?

Gastronomy is the relationship between food and culture — or as many Launcestonians like to say, it is the relationship between food and people.

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Cities need to submit a bid to UNESCO to be bestowed with a creative city title.

The Creative Cities Network was established in 2004, and aims to promote cooperation between endorsed cities and encourage sustainable development. 

Cities can be recognised under seven creative categories: craft and folk arts, design, movie, gastronomy, literature, digital arts and music.

Thirty-six cities globally have been bestowed with the City of Gastronomy honour.

Bendigo was named in 2019, the only other Australian city to have been recognised in past years.

To be approved as a City of Gastronomy, cities need to meet a number of UNESCO criteria, including: 

Vibrant gastronomy communityIndigenous ingredients used in traditional cookingTraditional food markets and traditional food industryTradition of hosting gastronomic festivals, awards and contests Respect for the environment and promotion of sustainable local products

Launceston food entrepreneurs decided three years ago to vie for the title and formed a steering committee, made up of 24 passionate industry producers and experts, to make a formal submission to UNESCO.

People working in the Harmony Community Garden at Mowbray.
Tasmania's climate produces a varied diet of different products.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

Businessman Andrew Pitt, who is on the Launceston Gastronomy board, said the city decided to make the submission because of its growing food culture.

"For cities our size, there's really only one or two things usually that you can go for, and you really need to lean into what your regional strengths are — for us it was obviously food," Mr Pitt said.

"What's happened over the last 15 years is that our history of food culture had starting emerging through new products and new ways of thinking about food."

Does Launceston have a culinary dish? 

Well, no. But the city does have a paddock-to-plate culture.

Mr Pitt said the honour was about embracing the whole of Launceston's "food system" and "supply chain" — from the paddock to the manufacturing process to retail sales.

"It's all about making this city and this region world famous for what we do here in sustainable food systems and gastronomy," Mr Pitt said.

"The big aspect of it is looking to collaborate with other cities around the world who are also thinking in creative and collaborative ways to solve these problems, such as food insecurity or poor access to food, low nutrition, and also environmental sustainability issues."

Launceston is also home to northern Tasmania biggest food and wine festival Festivale which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic attracted up to 30,000 people each year.

A crowd of people sit on lawn chairs at Festivale Launceston.
Pre-COVID, Festivale attracted tens of thousands of people each year.(Facebook: festivaletas)

Every Saturday, the city also hosts a traditional farmers market called Harvest. 

Plans are also underway for an Indigenous food garden to be developed in the city at the University of Tasmania's new Inveresk site.

What will the honour do for Launceston?

Ms Seagram said as well as being about branding and attracting more foodies to the city, the recognition would allow producers and growers to tap into new global markets.

"We'll now have a network across 36 different cities of gastronomy across the world to be able to trade, solve problems and collaborate with," she said.

Lauren Byrne and Michael Layfield grow vegetables on their farm 30 kilometres outside of Launceston.

Most weekends they sell their produce at the Launceston Harvest Market.

Ms Byrne said she was not surprised Launceston had been bestowed with the City of Gastronomy title.

"My husband and I originally moved up to the north of the state because the climate really appealed to us as growers," Ms Byrne said.

"We're very lucky here in the north of Tassie that we have a climate that can produce a varied diet of different products.

"We have the really cold winters, which produce the most beautiful, sweet brassicas like cabbage, broccoli and kale.

A woman in a black apron puts bunches of vegetables into a brown paper bag.
Lauren Byrne moved up north for teh food-growing opportunities.(ABC Landline: Margot Kelly)

"Then we have really lovely, usually consistently warm summers, where you can produce things like melon."

Ms Byrne hoped the title would draw more people to the idea that "food connects us all".

"Food is something we all have in common, and we're so fortunate in Tassie to have such fantastic produce and producers who are really passionate about everything from the seed all the way onto the plate."

Want more Tasmanian news?

Set the ABC News website or the app to 'Tasmania Top Stories' from either the homepage or the settings menu in the app to continue getting the same national news you love but with a sprinkle of more relevant state stories.

Here's a taste of the latest stories from Tasmania:

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Posted 11 Nov 202111 Nov 2021Thu 11 Nov 2021 at 6:27am, updated 11 Nov 202111 Nov 2021Thu 11 Nov 2021 at 6:30pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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