A FAMILY of innovative foodies have a lot on their plate, writes SARAH HUDSON
Enter the office of Jonette George's family business and you're greeted with a hand-written message sprawled across a wall: "Pursue what you love and you will never have to work another day in your life."
"That is our ethic in our family," Jonette elaborates. "If you do what you love, you don't need a rest. If you are bored, do something else."
Clearly Jonette, and her two daughters, Daniele and Katie Wilton, walk their talk.
They have spent the past three years establishing Smudge Publishing, which focuses on the produce, provedores, chefs, history and farm gates of regional Victoria. All their titles come under the Produce to Platter series banner.
The first foray was Produce to Platter Mornington Peninsula, followed in 2011 by Geelong and Surrounding Regions and last year's Yarra Valley and Daylesford and Surrounds.
There are plans to take on the rest of the state's regions in coming years, but not content to leave it at regional Victoria, Jonette and daughters plan to tackle regional food in other states.
They have also started a new Flavours Of series, examining CBD and suburban foodies in Melbourne and soon Sydney. And then they plan to tackle the planet.
"We're just about to head off on a 10-week trip to South and Central America," the 57-year-old says, "including Colombia, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador to produce two books, one on coffee farmers and another on cooking with the wives and mothers of the growers.
"We'll be well looked after, with machine guns and bodyguards."
Machine guns aside, the philosophy scrawled on the wall makes perfect sense given the intense schedule.
Jonette says her skill is writing and publishing, Daniele's is marketing, design and writing, and Katie's is photography - but they are united in their love of regional food.
"Produce to Platter and all our projects come from the heart - for me that is being an old hippie," Jonette says.
"This is our way of fighting a global crisis. Local communities need to be sustainable in order to survive."
Jonette grew up in Sydney, where she eventually studied journalism, but the call of the bush was strong and she moved with her then husband to a 26ha cattle farm in Taree, NSW.
While she reported for local ABC radio, she immersed herself at home in the vegie patch.
The next few years were a rollercoaster, as Jonette became a commercial diver and later chairman of Skiing and Snowboarding Australia, lived in the mountains of America for two years and endured a battle with breast cancer - all of which will form the basis of her planned autobiography ("which I'll write once I do take a rest").
Back in Australia, where she battled and beat the cancer, Jonette's love of food was resurrected while living in Noosa in the late 2000s. Once again tapping into her journalism skills, she established a publishing company that produced advertising-dependent magazines.
But when the global financial crisis hit, advertising dried up. Rather than sink, Jonette swam.
She developed a business model that is the foundation of Smudge Publishing today.
Rather than asking local restaurants and foodies to advertise, she produced a book, Local Produce to Platter, Greater Noosa. Those featured agreed to buy a set amount of books, which they then on-sold.
When Jonette and her daughters moved back to Melbourne in 2010, they applied the Noosa model to the Mornington Peninsula.
The model was a win-win - Jonette locked in buyers for the book, while businesses were featured in soft and hard-backs that customers were happy to buy.
Jonette, her daughters and the Smudge Publishing team of journalists and photographers sweep into a region, approaching food and tourism groups first, followed by individual businesses. The whole process takes six months.
She says large producers, such as wineries, agree to buy more books - about 50 - while small farm gates often don't need to buy any, with the print run of 5000 reaching in to mainstream shops. "The books are independent, it's not advertising and we don't hard sell. The aim is to capture producers' stories," Jonette says.
The model has been such a success she is applying a similar style to the Flavours Of series, as well as the South American coffee book, and the rest of her world titles. Despite grand plans, she says home is where her heart is.
"When I lived in the US I would go to Italy for holidays and was struck by how people showcase their regions," she says.
"Australians should be so proud of their local regions.
"You can go down the road an hour and find the same quality."