She’s the face of Maitland’s fresh food revolution and now chef and Slow Food Hunter Valley leader Amorelle Dempster has been named the 2017 Maitland Citizen of the Year.
Ms Dempster received the accolade during the Australia Day celebrations at Maitland Park on Friday.
Maitland Mayor, Cr Loretta Baker, Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison and Paterson MP Meryl Swanson congratulated Ms Dempster on the achievement.
“The Maitland Citizen of the Year awards celebrate those individuals who enrich our community through their commitment and service to others,” Cr Baker said.
“Amorelle works tirelessly sharing her passion for fresh, nutritious food dedicating countless hours serving our community.
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“It is always a pleasure seeing her bright smiling face enjoying what she does whether that’s in her café, at The Earth Markets or even at one of our community events.
“Her contribution to our community makes her a very worthy recipient of this award.”
Ms Dempster was one of four citizens who had been nominated for the award.
The other nominees were Maitland Basketball stalwart Tom Danilidis, Dr Paul Moffitt and Maitland Football Club stalwart Paul Osland.
Young sportsman Christopher Teasdale was named the 2017 Young Citizen of the Year.
“We are very fortunate to have so many talented and community minded young people like Christopher in our city. Hearing of his efforts and commitment makes me incredibly proud,” Cr Baker said.
Many Maitlanders know Ms Dempster through her cafe, Readers Cafe and Larder alongside East Maitland Library, or through the Slow Food Earth Markets in The Levee.
Others know her through the community food program she runs which sees 200 meals made each week for the disadvantaged.
Ms Dempster championed calls for an outlet where the city’s farmers could sell their food directly to shoppers.
She worked with Maitland council and the Mercury to make the market a reality and her efforts came to fruition when the first stall was held in May 2016.
It came two months after she helped rescue 40 tonnes of pumpkins from a farm in East Maitland that were about to be turned into fertiliser.
The cost to send them to the Sydney markets – and the low price they would receive – meant farmers Matthew Dennis and Tony Milburn would have barely broke even.
Ms Dempster helped organise an impromptu-pumpkin stall, which saw thousands of shoppers flock to The Levee to help.
In 12 hours 20 tonnes of pumpkins had been sold, and Ms Dempster then worked with her contacts across the city, and in Sydney, to place the other 20 tonnes.
When the market became a twice-monthly event in 2017 Ms Dempster used her connections within the Slow Food movement to apply for Earth Market status – an initiative that would ensure every piece of produce sold at the market was grown within a 100km radius.
In August last year Slow Food International’s Professor Francesco Sottile came all the way from Italy to open the Slow Food Earth Market Maitland.
It was a momentous occasion that coincided with the Slow Food of Australia national conference, which was held at Tocal.