Stone visits

Demonstrating Coles’ commitment to Australian suppliers in its centenary year ambassador and chef Curtis Stone was in Tatura last Wednesday visiting Tatura Primary School where he spoke to eager and awe-struck students.

BOB NICOL February 19, 2014 4:25am

Tatura Primary School principal Jane Lloyd was ‘‘over the moon’’ when she met world-renowned chef Curtis Stone, who spoke at the school.

Earlier he visited Wyuna’s Mercuri Family Farms, which is one of Australia’s largest tomato growers, producing more than 5 million kg of tomatoes each year.

Mercuri has supplied to Coles for more than 25 years, and will this year supply the company with 350 000 cartons of tomatoes as part of their joint venture with Premier Fruits Group.

At Tatura Primary School, principal Jane Lloyd said the visit was exciting.

‘‘The staff and I, along with the students, are excited that Curtis has taken time out of his busy schedule to visit the school,’’ she said.

Mr Stone said the visit to Tatura Primary School was to talk about the food grown around Tatura and ‘‘how we use it’’.

He has been working with Coles and ‘‘a bunch of local farmers’’ for five years, and apart from visiting farms, he produces 100 recipes a year for the company.

‘‘It’s better we can work directly with, and have better relationships with farmers.

‘‘Currently we have around 96 per cent of locally grown products at Coles, but I would like to get it to 100 per cent,’’ he said.

Mr Stone stressed to students the importance of buying locally, thus providing better support ‘‘for our farmers’’.

He went on to discuss the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables and a healthy diet, which created a mixed reception among students, much to Mr Stone’s amusement.

And with a number of students admitting to not liking fruit and vegetables, particularly tomatoes which Mr Stone was keen to promote and drew a large ‘‘yuck’’ from many in the audience, he suggested ‘‘do not be afraid to give them a go’’.

‘‘Eat things that come out of the ground — that is fresh fruit and vegies,’’ he said.

Mr Stone said during the five years he had been working with Coles, he had the privilege to visit farms and work with growers from across the country.

‘‘I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Coles’ great quality Australian fresh produce than showcasing some of these great farmers who are supplying Coles,’’ he said.

Following his entertaining thought-provoking talk which attracted plenty of student interaction when questions were asked, Mr Stone was graciously thanked by the school captains Bailey Archer and Chloe Wereszczuk.

Coles managing director Ian McLeod said Coles would celebrate with growers and communities that have led double digit growth in sales of fresh produce every year, for the past five years, as part of its centenary celebrations.

He said Mr Stone’s visit to growers in three states will highlight the dramatic improvement in quality and innovation in varieties and products that have resulted in a surge in fresh produce participation in customer shopping baskets around the country.

‘‘Working closely with our growers to deliver the best quality has driven a dramatic increase of fresh produce in our customer baskets every week. Coles now sources an extra 15 000 truck loads of Australian grown fruit and vegetables compared to five years ago,’’ Mr McLeod said.

‘‘As part of our centenary year celebrations, we are recognising the great Australian suppliers that make it possible to deliver fantastic quality Aussie-grown produce — from the farm to the fork.’’

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