SINCE appearing on My Kitchen Rules (MKR) last week, Stanthorpe farm manager Duane Lihou has become quite the hometown celebrity.
The popular Channel 7 reality television cooking show invited representatives from the suppliers of its main sponsor, Coles, to appear on the show with the aim of giving a human face back to the produce.
One of those was the Stanthorpe-raised grower, who manages Rugby Farms Stanthorpe operations.
It's good to get not just our name, but all farmers' names out there - to let people know what we go through to get food on plates.
Mr Lihou, who admits to being an MKR fan, said the show was great publicity not just for the farmers who appeared, but for all those sitting at home watching as well.
"It's good to get not just our name, but all farmers' names out there - to let people know what we go through to get food on plates," he said.
"MKR gets a big tick from me for getting us involved and giving some recognition to our industry.
"Hopefully, people who were watching might now go to the shops and think of the farmers behind the produce they're buying."
Mr Lihou said the city falling out of step with the country and the origins of their food was an ongoing problem but the efforts from MKR and Coles last week were a big step forward for producers.
"It's about teaching people that milk doesn't just come from the fridge, there are people and animals behind the milk and we're here," he said.
"Our involvement on the show the other night was a start towards bridging the gap."
Rugby Farms is one of only two Coles cauliflower, cabbage, beans and corn suppliers on the east coast of Australia.
Mr Lihou's family moved to Stanthorpe from Brisbane when he was two years old to take up farming and, though he admits agriculture was not his first choice, it quickly became apparent that he had the brain for it.
Prior to Rugby Farms expansion from Gatton into Stanthorpe, Mr Lihou managed the Greenridge lettuce-growing operation.
In 2010 Rugby Farms took over Greenridge and two other local lettuce-growing operations, all three of which Mr Lihou now manages. His MKR debut is not Mr Lihou's only claim to fame though, having recently been selected for a vegetable industry leadership program. Growing Leaders is a national leadership program funded through industry levies from Horticulture Australia.
Managed and facilitated by Rural Training Initiatives, the program, which will bring together 16 industry representatives from throughout Australia, kicked off recently in Adelaide and will run for six months before concluding in Canberra during September.
Mr Lihou said the program was all about coming up with ways to get the public to understand the people and the stories behind the produce they picked up at the supermarket.
"We're trying to help the industry, it might come in the form of info packs for kids, booklets at supermarkets or websites that communicate our message," he said.
"It's going to take a bit to get there but it's a start."