Victorian Tourism Awards

Published on 09 November 2015

ONE of Loddon Shire’s premier tourist drawcards is in the race for top honours at the state’s peak industry awards.

Simply Tomatoes, of Boort, is an entrant in this year’s RACV Victorian Tourism Awards after an exhaustive preparation over several months.

Winners will be announced at a gala ceremony on 16 November at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

They will then be automatically entered into the annual Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, revealed in February next year at the same venue.

The competition celebrates Victoria’s tourism champions across 29 business and three individual categories.

Program manager Michael Hamilton said this year’s field comprised 121 entries, compared with 107 in 2014.

“The awards are designed as a business development activity where entrants evaluate their success, innovation, growth and tourism offering in the latest financial year,” Mr Hamilton said.

“It is a submission-based competition with a site visit verification process.

“Winners need to reach a score of 75% or above to be classed as a winner or finalist and they can then market themselves as the best in the category they’ve entered – potentially the best in the country if they win at the nationals.”

Ian and Marilyn Lanyon grew broad acreage tomatoes for almost 30 years on their 1200-acre (485ha) irrigation farm at Yando, north-east of Boort.

Over those years, Mrs Lanyon developed 19 different recipes to make use of the harvested red and green fruit.

Every year, she would preserve 500kg of tomatoes for family and friends, but there was always one stand-out recipe – her pickled green tomatoes. 

In 2002, the couple revised their farm operations to include commercial manufacture of the product and, two years later, opted to focus more closely on their own manufacturing and marketing.

Once offered only at farmers’ markets, local events and food shows, the range has been distributed through 450 retail outlets around Australia and in 20 countries. 

In recent years, the Lanyons have added further on-farm business ventures to the mix, comprising Aussie Wool Quilts, Woolly Warmers therapeutic head pads and two accommodation options, as well as offering the use of their functions area for private events and organising day tours for visitors.

Mrs Lanyon believes the awards process has been a great way “to have a really good look at your business”.

“We are tourism-accredited and, as such, subject to annual appraisals, but this was more intense,” she said.

“I looked at every nook and cranny of the business over about 10 weeks, guided by a mentor from Melbourne, Jo Pincus.

“Our visitor numbers and demand for our facilities for functions have both been on the rise and the RV free campsite take-up is also strong.

“Not many visitors leave the farm without buying a pack or two of our green tomato products after their taste test.”

Loddon Shire Tourism Manager Robyn Vella said this was the first time a business from the Shire had entered the awards since she took up her post in 2007.

“Anyone who goes into these awards has a high-quality business with the highest possible tourism accreditation, so Marilyn’s entry is a great credit to her and Ian,” Mrs Vella said.

“It’s been a marvellous opportunity for her to work on her business under the eye of a skilled mentor.

“Marilyn is never content to stand still – she’s always looking to beautify their property, improve infrastructure, upgrade her websites and customer service.”