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Reflecting on 20 years of Moree on a Plate

Jenni Birch and Margi Kirkby, the founders of Moree on a Plate 20 years ago

From celebrity chefs sunbaking half nude in the garden, to arranging reiki for a stressed producer on site  – the antics behind-the-scenes of Moree on a Plate are almost as iconic as the festival itself. 

What started as a lightbulb moment between two can-do Moree women 20 years ago is today one of the longest running, volunteer-led regional festivals in Australia. 

The brainchild of Margi Kirkby and Jenni Birch whilst in the early stages of setting up their olive oil business, Gwydir Grove, Margi smiles that there have been plenty of stories to tell along the way.  

Margi, who remains a tireless driving force behind the festival, laughs that starting a food and wine festival from scratch was perhaps an ill thought-through idea. 

“We were driving home from selling Gwydir Grove at an event in Tamworth, and we said ‘we can do this in Moree!, easy!’ Silly us really!”  

Well before Paddock to Plate was a buzzword, Margi and Jenni had an ambitious vision to celebrate local produce, particularly the boutique markets born from the Moree Plains. 

Today it’s a vision well and truly realised.   

“During that first year we called on friends, family – anyone who could help, and it was a very humble beginning.” 

No longer a local farmers market, today Moree on a Plate is a master showcase of food, wine and community, incorporating local musicians, celebrity chefs, plein air artists, a lighthearted local barbeque competition, and children’s entertainment. 

And there have been many learnings along the way. 

Margi with 2022 celebrity chef Butcher Girl. Margi had help to source, transport and hang a 90kg hind rump - a story in itself!

“There was one year we realised last minute we didn’t have cupcakes for the cupcake decorating in Kids Korner – Ros Van Dongen and Bethany Kelly stayed up into the early hours baking hundreds of cupcakes – we never made that mistake again!” 

Margi is responsible for organising the celebrity chefs, and often hosts them in her home.  

“One celebrity chef was so relaxed in our garden she stripped down to her underwear to sunbake, I had to redirect visitors that day away from the garden!” 

Whether it is managing the chef arriving hungover from Rockhampton Beef Week, which precedes Moree on a Plate, or the producer with a migrane requested a reiki session – the tireless volunteers of Moree on a Plate never fail to deliver. 

“If I was 20 years younger I’d do it all over again,” Margi smiles. “Seeing the community come together, the small producers’ eyes’ light up when they sell out of items, and the consumers rave about what is in our region.” 

“The tensions of whether the event will be a success, the months of organisation, and the back-breaking exhaustion of bumping in and bumping out – it takes a tribe, but seeing the thrill of the producers and the visitors makes it all worthwhile.” 

Jenni and Margi with Naomi Burger in the Gwydir Grove days

This year Moree will welcome celebrity chef Matt Golinski, who will prepare three dishes throughout the day using locally sourced fare.  

Matt joins a long list of chefs who have visited Moree on a Plate, the first being Peter Howard, as well as Fast Ed, Ben O’Donoghue, Alastair McLeod, Marion Grasby, Lyndey Milan, Dominque Rizzo, Christine Manfield, and Mark Olive.  

This year, to mark 20 years, the festival will return to the grounds of Moree Racecourse, having been held at the local high school for the past 15 years.  

The move marks a nostalgic nod to those early years, and an opportunity to continue to grow the festival into the future on a larger site. 

Entry to Moree on a Plate remains a gold coin donation, ensuring it’s an event the whole community can enjoy, with gates open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, May 11.

For more information see Facebook/moreeonaplate or


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