Deborah Bogenhuber's love of the nature and the environment goes all the way back to an inspiring Year 12 Environmental Studies teacher. That encounter set her on a path to becoming an ecologist, and later on involved in the local food movement.
A passionate advocate for The Murray region's incredible bounty and unique landscape, Deborah has discovered opportunities to create change in her local community. She knows we can reduce our impact on the planet by making conscious decisions about what we eat.
Co-founding the Food Next Door Co-op has come out of that, as well as the Co-op's Out of the Box weekly produce box, which supplies local restaurants and home cooks with fresh farmed fruit and veg.
'Everyone needs to eat. Everyone has a story about food. Food brings us together around the table, to share stories and understand each other.'
Here are some of Deborah's best-loved spots in The Murray region.
1. Food Next Door Co-op
Deborah is proud to steer this Mildura-based organisation that brings together diverse people and diverse crops. 'It's the most rewarding thing I have been a part of,' she says. The Co-op helps local migrant communities reconnect with farming, nurtures and rebuilds soils, and transforms vacant blocks into biologically fertile market gardens. Also important to Deborah is the way Food Next Door builds capacity and creates a 'sense of belonging and confidence in new migrant communities'.
2. Fossey's Gin Emporium
'I was so excited when the Ginporium opened in Mildura,' Deborah enthuses. 'It's quirky, it's bright, it's full of fun and joy.' Drop by and check out the specially designed copper that's still in pride of place and watch the distilling in process each week.
3. Murray River
The beautiful Murray River waterfront in Mildura is a source of natural inspiration for Deborah. 'Walking from town you pass through a passage that leads you down stairs to the river,' she describes. Listen for the birdsong and read the names of the area's First Nations as you pass through. Along the riverfront, you'll find walking paths and 'Badger Bates' amazing mosaiced gathering space honouring our region's native flora and fauna'. Stop for coffee and a bite at a caravan cafe, and picnic under the trees.
4. Oak Valley Estate
Deborah makes this small-batch organic winery a compulsory stop when visitors come to town. 'This family-run winery is the real deal. Larry, Joanna and Fred are always up for a chat and love offering you tastings of wines they've just put in the barrel, or wines that are just ready to bottle.' Top tip: look out for their exquisite vincotto and balsamic vinegar made from old family recipes, too.
5. Local produce
Deborah says one of the special things about The Murray is its abundant produce. 'We have almost everything you need produced by small-scale producers, many of them farming to organic practices.' Look out for Murray River Salt, bottles of Bawdens olive oil, Master Natural organic sultanas, Gio's artisan bread made with biodynamic spelt he mills himself, honey from Monsons and Mosers, Garreffa's Italian preserves – and of course diverse organic produce from Food Next Door's Out of the Box weekly produce boxes.