THEY say the way to a person's heart is through their stomach.
And that is exactly what one generous South West restauranteur hopes to do when he takes the flavours of his iconic Busselton restaurant to Southern Cross next month.
The Goose Restaurant/Cafe owner Rhys Passmore and his staff will venture from the crisp white shores of Geographe Bay to the red dirt plains in the Shire of Yilgarn to provide the culinary experience of a lifetime for 150 farmers and business owners.
There is no doubt times are tough in parts of the eastern Wheatbelt as the community continues to feel the effects of extreme seasonal variability that has plagued the area for more than a decade.
But when the chips are down, the strength of community shines through, and Mr Passmore hopes to fill the hearts and stomachs of people in the region in an effort to boost morale and lift spirits.
The Goose Restaurant will serve guests a three course dinner, using quality WA produce and accompanied by local wines, on September 14 at the Southern Cross Community Centre.
Attendees will be treated to a presentation from one of Australia's best known motivational speakers Tom O'Toole.
In a combined community effort, locals will assist with table service and the community resource centre will run a bar to raise money for the Southern Cross Seniors games team.
Mr Passmore's link to the land originated from his wife Gemma's country roots.
"Gemma's parents still farm in Katanning and they are aware that other farmers are doing it tough," Mr Passmore said.
"We thought we would head out to Southern Cross to try and give the farmers and community something to smile about."
He said the night would be a great opportunity for attendees to experience quality restaurant dining, and would provide them with a break from the realities of life for a few hours.
"The dinner is about letting people know that they are not alone," he said.
"If we can get the locals together and let them forget about life for a few hours and encourage them to have a good time, it could help people to get through and lift their spirits."
Mr Passmore said it was important to support WA farmers because they not only produced a high quality product, but they also made a substantial contribution to Australia's productivity.
"Without farmers we are really buggered, we buy everything locally from WA wherever we can, and that is really important to us," he said.
"We really need to keep the WA agricultural industry going.
"We have got to be good corporate citizens in what we do, and we have that connection to the land and with country people so it is nice to give something back."
Mr Passmore approached Yilgarn Shire president Romolo Patroni about organising the event last month.
"Rhys said he had a new mobile kitchen that he used for catering and said he would love to come up and do something for the people of Yilgarn," Mr Patroni said.
The pair agreed The Goose would provide the food and services, and the Shire of Yilgarn would invite the community.
And the timing of the event could not be better.
"Since Rhys and I spoke last month, things haven't improved, in fact things have got a lot worse," Mr Patroni said.
"Not all of the shire is in dire straits, but there are parts that have reached the stage where we can't see there will be a harvest.
"Some crops won't make commercial value and a lot of the stock has been agisted or sold off, and while there is some breeding stock left, it is being hand-fed.
"Once we get to the spring and start to get warmer weather we can't expect to get much more rain and what little moisture is there will burn off pretty quickly."
Mr Patroni said spirits in the area appeared reasonable but the undertone was not good.
"People put on a brave face, a bright smile and make a joke, but underneath they are hurting," he said.
"Not only because the season has turned out to be bad, but because we have had a number of bad years up this way and financial pressures are growing."
Mr Patroni said the event would give families and community an opportunity to get together and talk.
"It's not their fault that it hasn't rained, yet they seem to carry the burden of failure on themselves and I think it is important that they get out and talk," he said.
"It will be worth their while to come to the event, it's not expensive and it gives us an opportunity to get together to discuss our points of view.
"We need to come together if we are going to pull through."
p More information: Ronice Blair, 9049 1688.