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More than 6000 meals in 2 days at the Field Days’ biggest takeaway

Close to 200 members and supporters of 8 local RFS brigades – including about 30 from Yass River–Nanima – volunteered to prep, cook and serve over 6000 meals and three-quarters of a tonne of hot chips from Al’s Kitchen on the village green at the Murrumbateman Field Days on the weekend of 21-22 October.

That’s a meal for close to a quarter of all visitors to the event. No wonder the field days are a significant fundraiser for the brigades.

Poet Marty Boyce was a member of Sutton brigade in 2016 when he wrote this final stanza to his poem, Al’s Kitchen: The Field Days Food Canteen, summing up the weekend that year:

A masterful arrangement, the precision must be seen
As we fed a mighty army
At the Field Days Food Canteen

The precision of that masterful arrangement was due to Alois (Al) Lustenberger, a long-serving Yass River–Nanima deputy when the brigades combined into a single food outlet in 2009. Al’s death in an accident on his property just weeks after the 2012 field days was a great shock and remains a sad loss to many in the community.

What we do every year at the field days is an abiding legacy to Al, the force behind the ‘field days food canteen’.

Before 2009, individual brigades had run barbecue tents scattered around the field days grounds. The 2009 decision for them to join forces in a single outlet represented a massive upscaling, and was the beginning of the ‘Village Green’concept with food outlets in the one area.

Al had been an executive chef at major international hotels around the world, managing multiple restaurants simultaneously in those large hotel complexes. While establishing a successful farm with Margot at their Murrumbateman property, he was regularly lured back to that world for months at a time, turning poor performing restaurants back into success stories.

Al was the obvious choice to manage the upscaling, and in that first combined year of 2009, managed to turnover $43,000. Al’s Swiss precision also managed to completely sell out of all stock, just at the end of Sunday lunch, timed to perfection.

His spirit is still with us as we continue to use the systems and methods he developed, now led by those who had the good fortune to work with and learn from him, including Kane Fillingham, Yass River deputy and former president, who leads the Al’s Kitchen management team. Kane worked with Al to set up the combined brigades outlet. Al’s son, Anthony, leads the kitchen these days.

“A food inspector stood for 20 minutes in Al’s Kitchen one year, watching how it worked and marveling at how effective it was,” Kane says. “And we get customers who manage similar operations elsewhere congratulating the serving team on how efficient the operation is, not to mention the quality of the food.”

“We pride ourselves on the fact that even at the peak of the lunchtime rush, it takes no more than 10 minutes from joining the tail of the long queue to passing through the cashier,” Kane says.

Field Days catering by numbers (by no means a small operation):
• 750kg of frozen chips are fried
• 5,000 bread rolls become delicious meals
• 370kg of steak, sausages and bacon get barbecued
• 1,700 chicken schnitzels are cooked to perfection
• 850 eggs are cracked
• 100 litres of sauce are consumed
• 400 litres of oil fill our fryers
• 120kg of tomatoes are sliced
• 170kg of onions are cooked and 90kg of coleslaw prepared

As the early shift arrives in the pre-dawn of Saturday morning and Al’s Kitchen stirs to life, Marty Boyce’s words will resonate with them:

Al’s Kitchen: The Field Days food canteen

Everybody had their job 
Each member of the crew
With military discipline
Each knows what they must do 

The bread was buttered, bacon fried
The eggs were cracking fast
The schnitties fried and popped into the oven so they’d last

A quiet start, they trickled through, the chips began to fry 
The salads prepped, the steaks are on 
We start to wonder why

The people are not hungry yet 
Where is the great big queue?
And still we cook and butter bread and find more things to do

11 comes, the rush begins, all hands to stations now
We see the queue go winding back 
The only word is WOW

Four hours of relentless rush, the queue will not abate
It stretches from the foodhall all the way out to the gate

Still everybody has a job, still each one knows their place
There’s a tired look developing across each server’s face

A schnityy here with coleslaw and 3 steaks all with the lot
Oh yeah a sanger in a bun 
I nearly just forgot

The process runs like clockwork as we push them through the line
And still they come, and still we push 
The process works just fine

The rush is done a little rest then cleaning can begin
We made it through and fed them all 
Each wears a tired grin

A masterful arrangement, the precision must be seen
As we fed a mighty army 
At the Field Days Food canteen

Sally Kaufmann
October 2023

Created October 2023

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Bush Fire Danger Period has Ended

The statutory bush fire danger period ended on 31 March across the Southern Tablelands. Landholders can now light a fire to burn a pile or undertake an agricultural burn without acquiring a permit.

However landholders wishing to light a fire are still required to notify their neighbours at least 24 hours before lighting the fire. They are also required to notify the RFS at least 24 hours before lighting the fire. The preferred method is to submit the online notification at this link:

They may also call the Yass RFS office during business hours on (02) 6226 3100.

Special care should be taken if the proposed burn is located adjacent to a smoke sensitive industry such as wine growing.

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As of 1 September 2022 the RFS has adopted the Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS). The new road side AFDRS signs and information will use four levels of MODERATE, HIGH, EXTREME and CATASTROPHIC with linked action items. The signs are primarily for the use of the community.

The AFDRS also comprises the The Fire Behaviour Index (FBI) which is designed to support fire fighters. The FBI is a simple numerical scale that can be used consistently across Australia, allowing users to make decisions that require finer detail than the four Fire Danger Rating categories allow. See for more detail.

One of the important things to remember is that permit holders can only conduct an agricultural burn during the declared bush fire season if there is no fire rating on the day of the planned burn and for the following two days, that is less than Moderate. The current and forecast fire danger ratings can be checked via this link.

Pile burns can be lit during a Moderate rating but will still require a permit during the declared bush fire season.