Despite being known as a town with a proud history linked to the timber industry, Manjimup is finding new ways to put itself on the map as a must-visit tourism hotspot of the South West. Agri-tourism is fast becoming a part of Manjimup’s identity with annual culinary events such as the Truffle Kerfuffle, Cherry Festival, Warren District Agricultural Show and emerging events like the Pinot Picnic, which introduce tourists to the vast array of incredible produce, and producers, the region has to offer. Manjimup Visitor Centre president Peter Casonato, who has lived in Manjimup almost his whole life and has been involved with the centre for roughly 16 years, said he has seen the transformation of the region and its agri-tourism industry firsthand over the years. “From that shift in government policy when the logging was reduced, there had to be a bigger emphasis on tourism,” he said. “And people nowadays are wanting to be more aware of where their food is coming from and so to be able to utilise that as one of our tourism strategies for the area is just a new market that’s coming on board now. “We’re definitely getting a lot more of the tour bus companies coming through, and really, in particular over the last couple of years, starting to spend more time here and that’s through them suddenly becoming aware of what is available. “There’s been a massive increase in particular in that single sector of the market in the last 18 months to two years.” Mr Casonato said he believes agri-tourism is the way forward for the region. “Manjimup’s been through those bad periods time and time again — the collapse of the timber industry was one ... the end of the tobacco era, but it always finds a way to bounce back,” he said. “To suddenly see the bounce in tourism which is a combination of the development of the town, and the Heritage Park, and increase in agri-tourism, I think we’re now going to see an increase in opportunities for these small producers. “When you’re doing agri-tourism suddenly the produce varies all the way through the year and so it’s just a matter of meeting different producers and then having different chefs highlight those individual ingredients to pull people in any time of the year. “I believe for Manjimup in particular that is the best strategy, for Manjimup to market (itself) as that food bowl.” Manjimup Shire president Paul Omodei said the re-branding of the town as a tourism destination in recent years had been successful. “I think part of that’s been due to COVID, but the agricultural expansion project which also produced the Southern Forests Food Council ... that’s been a good branding with the Genuinely Southern Forests brand that has been a success,” he said. “A combination of those, the tourism aspect and the agricultural tourism, I think we’ll see more and more farm visits. “We were a sub-regional centre and I think now we’re acknowledged as a regional centre for Warren-Blackwood which is a good thing not only for the Shire of Manjimup but for Bridgetown, Nannup and our surrounding Shires. “The future is certainly bright.” Around 3000 people are expected to take part in the 2021 Truffle Kerfuffle festival next weekend from June 25 to 27.