Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sydney Markets Fresh Awards 2017

It was a privilege to be a part of the Sydney Market Fresh Awards 2017 as a finalist for the best blogger story on a florist. I wrote a story about my local florist, Jackie’s Floral Gallery which made it into the finals. I didn't win this year’s awards but big congratulations to We Are Scout for taking out this year’s award and to my fellow finalist for their engaging stories. You can read all the stories on the Fresh Awards website. It was an awesome night at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney with delicious food and drinks catered for by Simon Fox and his team at Graze MCA and Culinary Edge. Although I didn’t take home the prize, I felt honoured to be recognised for my achievement in making it to the finals and to have my blog profile up on the big screen for an audience to see, which seems to validate what I do as a writer and a blogger.

The Sydney Markets Fresh Awards is a way to formally recognise and celebrate excellence in fresh fruit, vegetable and flower retailing and the categories of Greengrocer and Florist of the Year Awards, as well as the Fruit & Vegetable and Flower Grower of the Year Awards, and a category for bloggers. The Fresh Awards are a platform for encouraging and recognising best practice and innovations in fresh produce and flower growing and retailing, as well as a showcase for the broader NSW and ACT fresh produce industry.

The process of entering these awards was an interesting one for me and truly one that really is about connecting with people in the fresh produce industry, which I would not have otherwise happened if I solely focussed on my profession, my ‘day job’ in the corporate world. In fact, if I didn’t have my blog I would not have got to know the amazing people I’ve met in the fresh produce and food industry.

How did it all start? Instagram is a powerful platform for engagement and connecting people. That might be obvious to say but I have experienced it and seen how it can change the way you think and see things, influence choices people make, connect with people, making new introductions and enhance (and unfortunately, in some cases bring down) the lives of people. But nothing beats the real connection you make with people. I’ve found the best way to use Instagram is to use it as a way to start to engage with someone, make an introduction and to connect with the real people by taking the time to meet and getting to know people in person by sharing an experience together whether it’s simply having coffee, breakfast or doing something with them that you both enjoy, share laughter and create new memories together.

How it all started was that there was an Instagram account called @mdprovodores where we followed each other. It was an account that followed around the early days of my blog. I’m not sure what makes someone hit the ‘follow’ button on my Instagram account, particularly in the early days where I was still feeling my way through my blog and learning the art of photography for social media, but this account did and I’m grateful for that. This would be about 2-3 years ago now from memory. I subsequently discovered this account, @mdprovodores was a providore and supplier to many of the Sydney restaurants I blogged about. I didn’t know what the person behind this account looked like because at the time I noticed he or she never put photos of themselves up, just photos of their beautiful and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Anyway time passes and in the past two years I started to get interested in Sydney Markets when I was asked to do
a speech at an event at The Queen Victoria Building, being one of the old historical sites of Sydney Markets around the 1800s (now know why Market Street in the city is called Market Street?) which lead to some detailed research on its history at the State Library of NSW.

Then one day last year on 18 October 2016,
Sydney Markets instagram account puts up a post seeking entries for bloggers for the Fresh Awards and I had not heard about it until @mdprovodores tags me in a post writing “ she’s the best”. I thought who is this person who would write that and naturally I was quite flattered that someone looks at my stuff and thought so. I then thought “Why not?” I’ll enter and I said to @mdprovodores, “But I need a fruit and vege guy to pester”. He responds on Instagram, “You found that person”. Things have not been the same since that day and it was a wonderful new connection that was formed from that day onwards. We made a time for me to visit Sydney Markets in early January of this year and I visited the markets admittedly with some trepidation because it was like a blind date in the early hours of a market morning, when you had no idea of what the person you were meeting looked like, though you felt like you know the person because of their voice online. I waited at the carpark at the markets, looking around to see if any of the men in high vis jackets was him. Thoughts in my head at the time include: “Was he going to drive a forklift to meet me? …. He must be some bald headed hairy guy”.

Well, he didn’t drive a forklift to meet me at the markets and neither was he a bald headed hairy guy. You can read my story on Mouhamad Dib of @mdprovodores
here and see what he looks like. That story was originally intended for the Fresh Awards.

Unfortunately, after all that effort I received a phone call from Sydney Markets saying the story was not eligible for entry into the competition because @mdprovodores was not a greengrocer in a retail sense but a providore. I was naturally disheartened and Mouhamad too because we both new I put in a lot of effort in that story that received excellent engagement on my blog, as well I wanted to show case MD Provodores' story and his contribution to the fresh produce industry. Notwithstanding this, I was so glad I wrote his story as I would not have met and got to know this wonderful and kind person and be introduced to his delicious fresh produce he supplies to Sydney restaurants. Hopefully, next year, Sydney Markets like the Sydney Fish Markets, introduce a category to recognise excellence for this category of the fresh produce supply chain and to recognise people like Mouhamad and his business MD Provodores.  If it wasn't for Mouhamad, I wouldn't have entered the Fresh Awards and end up being at the 2017 Fresh Awards.

I was encouraged to enter again but thought not to as I felt I wouldn’t have the same energy to write another story about a ‘fruit and vege’ person. After some consideration though, I decided to try again but this time to enter in the different category of writing a story about my local florist, Jackie’s Floral Gallery in Kingsgrove. This was also a wonderful new connection. I saw Jackie regularly because I got her flowers almost weekly for home or photography and then I asked if I could write a story about her for the Fresh Awards. She said yes and there the journey started again of storytelling and I’m glad it did because not only did I learn the journey of flowers to Sydney Markets but I got to know Jackie and her story and connected with more people in the Sydney Flower Markets.

So as you can see, the process of getting to the finals of the Sydney Markets Fresh Awards was quite a journey for me and a path I was happy to have taken because of the beautiful new connections and friends I made along the way who helped me create these new memories.

I’ll leave you with photos now of the 2017 Sydney Markets Fresh Awards night. It really was an awesome night of celebrations with the people I met this year.


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