The Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC) is getting a much-needed shot in the arm after Nationals MP and Member for Calare Andrew Gee paid a visit to the site on Friday, October 8.
The site, which is mainly known as the home of the Small Farm Field days but hosts a wide variety of events and groups has, like many businesses around the country, done it pretty tough the last couple of years, taking a harsh loss last year. But, thanks to a $192,000 grant from the Government, one important part of the site will see a long-overdue upgrade.
"Generally we turn a small profit each year which then goes back into the site, so we're a self-funded not-for-profit so any profits we do make go into improving the site, Cassandra Stanford, General Manager of AREC said.
"Last year we reported a loss due to COVID and we're looking at the same fate this year due to the second cancellation, so it has definitely been a bit hard and we'll be looking forward to some better years to come but this grant is also very much welcomed."
"The kitchen has been something that we've wanted to improve and upgrade for a number of years now. And this will give us the funding to be able to do that," Chairman of AREC, James Sullivan said.
The upgrades, Cassandra and James are hoping, will shine a light on the new opportunities the new kitchen and facilities will allow, and bring bookings for events and functions to AREC and help keep it alive in a post COVID vaccinated world.
"COVID has impacted a rig hugely in running the our annual Mudgee Small Farm Field Days event. And we haven't been able to run this for the last two years. So this is a really, really good boost for us really, to get something like this to improve our facilities here in the kitchen. And in in, in using the air conditioning in the small, small pavilion, so that we can run further events here," James said.
"I wouldn't say we've been standing on our toes. But we feel like we've probably gotten nowhere the last two years, unable to put an event on. This will be a really good opportunity to improve the facilities here."
"There are a huge number of community organisations, not only local, but from all around the state that want to use this site because Mudgee has just gone gangbusters as a tourist destination," Mr Gee said.
"So many people want to come here and hold their events here. But one thing that has been holding the AREC site back has been the kitchen facilities. They were really good when they were first installed, and very much fit for purpose. But times have changed, this site has grown far more popular. The demands on this kitchen facility and this building and the whole site have increased exponentially.
"So it's really important that we make the investment to keep AREC and this site moving with the times."
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