GARDENING guru Graham Ross gave Merriwa a glowing endorsement at the weekend.
While in the Upper Hunter as an Australia Day Ambassador, on Sunday, January 26, the popular radio broadcaster, author and television presenter spruiked the town's hospitality.
He also provided the big audience at the RSL Club - which included many die-hard locals - a history lesson on Merriwa that was graciously received.
"I'm honoured to be here," Mr Ross said.
"It is such a privilege.
"I attended a lovely function [on Saturday evening], as well as today.
"I'd like to thank everyone for your invitation and warm welcome.
"I've been an Australia Day Ambassador for 18 years, so I take the role seriously.
"Merriwa residents should be proud of their past.
"And, from what I see, you're continuing to evolve and grow as a community, too."
Mr Ross began his career when he started working at his local nursery from age 11.
He went on to graduate from the Ryde School of Horticulture, with qualifications in horticulture, park administration, greenkeeping, landscaping and agronomy from the NSW Department of Agriculture and a Dip Ed Sydney University (Teachers College).
In 1978, he made a move into media, producing and presenting gardening programs for ABC TV including The Weekender and Earthwatch.
While he has worked on all networks since then, he's spent 35 of his past 39 years in television with Channel 7, initially as a horticultural journalist for Seven National News, Newsnight and 11AM before joining the Better Homes and Garden team in 1995.
"I've made 600 trips around the world," Mr Ross said.
"However, I'm always impressed by the spirit of country towns in Australia.
"That certainly includes Merriwa.
"This town is on the national stage, largely due to the Festival of the Fleeces and the Running of the Sheep in red socks; as well as internationally through the Fred Schepisi film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, which was based on Thomas Keneally's book.
"The community's also endured a lot in recent times, from terrible bushfires to this wretched drought.
"But, the people here are resilient.
"I know they'll bounce back stronger than ever."