Kimba means business and is open to everyone

One of five finalists for the 2021 Agricultural City of the Year awards, the tiny Northwestern city illustrates how much can be done when everyone enters.

Drought is hard on the town of Kimba. It pushed its farmers to the brink of survival, emptied its shops on the main street and discouraged cars from turning off the main road from Perth to Adelaide for a visit.

“But we’re not sitting and complaining, we’re acting,” says Mayor Dean Johnson.

Kimba’s relatively recent renaissance seems to have begun with a mural that now veils its city saddle and attracts tired travelers from the road.

Then the free RV park opened at the sports ground and now attracts up to 25 vans at night, the national group of Gray Nomads since voting the site among the best in the country.

“We estimate that for each van there is an expense of about $ 200 per person per day in the city and some stay three or four nights,” Johnson says proudly.

In a city where 51 percent of residents volunteer for their community, there is a feeling that if you live so far away from other cities and towns, you have to do things on your own.

And Kimba starts the road early. When children at the local Kimba school last year said they wanted their own course in agriculture, their teacher told them to make it happen.

Students spoke with the council, parents and farmers and this year the course started with 35 students in the program. The enclosure, seed, sheep, fencing, harvesting and teaching time were all donated.

Mayor Johnson Courtney’s own daughter is chairman of the Kimba Show committee which this year celebrated 100 years since the first event.

While another young woman, Ellen Zibell, won a scholarship on sustainable agriculture last year and is emotional as she recounts how the city supported the Resilient Ag event for the Future, which she held with 80 people earlier in the year.

“How did this little community here in the middle of Australia build such an innovative community? I have found that the secret source is its community leaders, ”says Kimba’s new economic development officer, Mel Garibaldi.

“It’s a different kind of leadership, not where one person dominates. It’s more about a group of people coming together and making changes. I was really, really inspired.”

The community is ready to think differently whether it is about being open to hosting the nation’s low-level radioactive landfill or tackling its problems with low rainfall.

The painted silos give a reason for travelers to become Kimba, but Mayor Dean Johnson says the town then gave them a reason to stay. Photo: Belinda Willis

On the outskirts of the city is awarded a giant retention basin created with recycled tires, which now captures Five Olympic-sized pools of water each year to irrigate an otherwise dusty sports oval or bowling alley.

As the city struggled to attract a new doctor, the community began building a brand new “doctor’s house” and a new regional medical center under construction – sure their “build it and they’ll come” approach will work.

There is a new T-Ports grain storage facility under construction adding capacity to the existing Viterra bulk storage facility to assist with grain transportation challenges.

BIG Fig, the Buckleboo Farm Improvement Group, is now the largest farmer group in the state, overseeing trials with ag scientists on growing better wheat, barley, canola or lentil crops.

“I’m one of the founding members of the 1990s,” farmer Graeme Baldock says of his property where lentil harvesting begins.

“It really inspired some innovation and adoption of new agriculture and research.”

His wife Heather is another of those innovators in town, she and Graeme are among four local families who founded the highly successful Workshop 26 on the main street.

After a few glasses of bubbles, the idea was born to create a home for micro-businesses such as candle makers, potters, soap makers and antique dealers. The group bought an empty garage in town and began shoveling away a 90-year worth of grease to make room for a series of shipping container stalls.

Their idea helped draw more money into the city and more businesses, with every empty storefront in the city now filled.

“It’s part of Kimba’s journey in innovating and halting the decline of our population,” says Heather.

The winner of the Agricultural City of the Year 2021 will be announced on Friday evening at the Adelaide Hills Convention Center as part of Solstice Media’s Regional Showcase program. The final city tour is Mypolonga tomorrow.

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