Gippsland’s Creative Harvest festival January 2022 – growing from strength to strength

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

Did you buy some indoor plants over the last couple of years? Maybe you planted out a window box with a few herbs for your pandemic cooking sessions?  Perhaps you got the kids out into the backyard and started a no-dig garden. Not for nothing, did garden centres sell out of seedling and potting mix in early 2020.

The Covid pandemic has highlighted the tenuous nature of our food systems, prompting many people to invest in growing some of their own food. Whether your harvest was small or grand, there’s no denying the simple joy of eating something you’ve grown.

If that has left you hungry for more, Creative Harvest Festival (January 22nd  & 23rd ) could be the weekend event you’re looking for. Now in its fifth year, the group behind the event – Baw Baw Sustainability Network – are hoping to top last year’s record-breaking number of attendees, and they’ve pulled out all the stops to get you there.

There are 15 gardens open to visitors, from small suburban backyards to larger family-run farms. But it’s not all about growing your own food. The weekend also brings together more than 30 local artists and producers across a number of locations, showcasing their work and practice. Because as we also all learnt over the last couple of years to tap into our own creativity, when we’re not buried under the day-to-day busyness of commuting, working and socialising.


Creative HarvestGIVEAWAY

To celebrate the launch of Creative Harvest 2022 – the first weekend pass ticket purchases, will receive a tote bag designed by Helen Timbury Design valued at $30.

 


Creative Harvest Committee Chair, Wendy Savage sums things up perfectly.

Making our event more accessible to broader communities is a celebration of connectedness and creativity in all forms. It is fundamental to our wellbeing, especially in these uncertain times, and it is wonderful to see how a day out in the garden can inspire and create positive change.

So, here’s a taste of just some of the growers, makers and producers featured across the weekend.

  • AgriSolutions will be on hand to help gardeners get the most out of their soil and composting with their targeted approach to soil health management.
  • Join Come Fly With Me Beekeeping with their hives at Green Hills Farm in Yarragon South and learn what bee colonies have to teach us if only we pay attention.
  • Green Hills Farm produces grass-fed beef and garlic, as well as an orchard and vegetable plot that supplies local cafes & restaurants.
  • Based at the Butler Garden in Warragul, print-maker Helen Timbury will be displaying her work which celebrates the Australian landscape in all its wild, natural beauty.
  • Paul Stafford, self-taught tree craver and chainsaw sculptor will be on hand at Paul & Maureen’s Patch in Warragul, along with Kouark Wines and their wild-ferment pinot noir.
  • In Neerim South, you’ll find Kay Lancashire and her permaculture garden creating all manner of jewellery and wearable art, inspired by the natural shapes and textures she finds in her garden.

Children 17 and under are free and what better way to encourage the next generation of gardeners to get their hands dirty. There are plenty of treats and refreshments to keep you going throughout the day.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Creative Harvest
WHERE: Various locations across West Gippsland
WHEN: Saturday & Sunday 22-23 January 10am-4pm
MORE INFO: creativeharvest.org.au

We wish to acknowledge the Bunurong and Gunaikurnai people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Mount Zero Olive’s Zero Waste Market returns with a Halloween twist

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images Supplied

Halloween is just around the corner, so allow us to paint a truly spooky picture: single-use plastics piled up in your garbage bin, mountains of food waste going direct to landfill, unnecessary air-miles on your favourite snacks. Nightmarish, right?

The team at Mount Zero Olive’s think so too. Committed to sustainable practices, these legends are putting on a Halloween-themed Zero Waste Food Market to get you in the spooky-spirit, while combatting the genuinely scary prospect of an unsustainable future. And best of all, you get to wear a costume.

All of Mount Zero’s delicious products will be available to scoop, bottle and refill as much as you please in your brought-from-home containers, jars and bags. From native and Kalamata olives to grains, pulses, extra virgin olive oils, goats cheeses and salts – and even a sneak peek at their Christmas Hampers – there is plenty to choose from and no limits to the amount you can stockpile.

In fact, everyone is encouraged to bulk up and take part in saving thousands of bottles from the recycling bin. An estimated 300kg of olive and grain packaging is diverted through these markets, so you can know you’re doing your bit to help protect the environment.

Products from other stores will make a package-free appearance to complete the range. There’ll be Market Lane Coffee, Koji & Co for eco-friendly miso, Precycle Pantry for bulk household and pantry items, Girls on Bread for fresh sourdough and Little Wing for condiments and cheesy lasagne toasties.

“It’s been another tough year for our community, so we wanted to make sure we had a bit of fun with our last market of the year,” said Mount Zero General Manager Rich Seymour. “We love to see people’s creativity when we ask them to bring their own containers to our markets – so we look forward to seeing how this extends to their interpretation of sustainable Halloween costumes!”

Shoppers who do rock up in a cozzie will receive a ten per cent discount across all products, and of course, brownie points if it’s made from recycled or repurposed textiles.

The market will run from 9am to 2pm on Saturday 30 October, at the Mount Zero Warehouse in Sunshine West.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Mount Zero Olive’s Zero Waste Food Market: Halloween Edition
WHERE: 6 Law Court, Sunshine West
WHEN: 9am-2pm, 30th October 2021
MORE INFO: Mount Zero Olives

Yarrawonga’s new provedore from Rich Glen Estate brings the goods

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

Ros Vodusek’s background as a trained chef is evident as you watch her recipe videos on Rich Glen’s YouTube channel. Her mise-en-place allows her to quickly and seamlessly take the viewer through her simple recipes which highlight the beauty and taste of Rich Glen premium food products – and it all starts from the humble olive.

Located in Yarrawonga, in North East Victoria near the banks of the mighty Murray River is Rich Glen Estate. In 1997 36,000 olive trees were planted on the farm and several years later, the oil began to flow. In the years since, Ros and her husband Daimien have grown the business, now employing 30 people producing over 150 olive-oil based food and skin-care products. And every single one of those products is made on the estate with 100% Australian grown ingredients. Can’t get more local than that!

The three-generation strong family enterprise is showing no signs of slowing, having just opened a new provedore store in the main street of Yarrawonga in a suitably rustic building which embraces its history.

‘It used to be a big old garage a 100 years ago,’ she says. ‘In a few years’ time we plan to gut the whole thing and take it back. Then we’ll have artisan producers, like a beautiful market showcasing regional producers with a coffee roaster, some beautiful pastries and so on.’

In its current incarnation the provedore stocks the estate-produced range of luxurious skincare products, premium pantry staples including oils & dressings, spice rubs and more, as well as a highly curated selection of regional Australian produce.

Everywhere people go, they are looking for what’s made in the area, what’s regional. Food has become the new souvenir. Everyone wants to take something home from the region. I feel that we’ve kind of brought the farm into town.

When asked to name her top picks from the range, Ros doesn’t hesitate.

Poppy’s No1 Dressing was the first product we made and it’s still the most popular one and I guess it’s still my favourite too. It’s something I can’t do without. I love it on corned beef and it’s gorgeous with prawns, as a dipper, or even on a chicken salad. It’s always a staple in my cupboard that’s for sure.’

‘The Bar-B-Q Meat Rub. We’re coming into BBQ season and I can’t have a steak without it really.’

While getting to the new provedore in person is tricky for most of us right now, you can check out the wonderful range of Rich Glen products via OHO Markets.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Rich Glen Estate Provedore
WHERE: Shop 3, 137 Belmore St, Yarrawonga
WHEN: Open Mon – Fri 9-4:30, Sat 9-3, Sun 10-3
MORE INFO: Rich Glen Estate

We wish to acknowledge the Yorta Yorta people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

The future of farming is diversification says Jo Corrigan – Mushrooms Anonymous

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Jo and her partner Matt Donnelley are two ex-chefs/restaurateurs who have turned a love of foraging and growing into a thriving business. It’s been five years since they swapped an inner-city life for the beautiful Macedon Ranges, quickly becoming an integral part of the community.

‘That word community is such an interesting one. During this whole pandemic, the people surrounding you that you may not know are your community. So, when you’re riding the same tram at the same time every morning, you’re seeing the same faces. You might not know them but they’re your community.

I think throughout this pandemic, country people had the basis of community and they’ve been able to keep that. City people lost the little bit they did have.

‘We were so grateful to be adopted into this community here in Romsey so quickly. People, when they found out we were here, looked out for us and said hello. They dropped a note into the letterbox if they bought plants from us somewhere.’

Jo takes a moment to reflect on the journey from restaurateur to farmer.  ‘Becoming a farmer was a long road. We’re no strangers to problems because we’ve had to make a lot of decisions under pressure. The restaurant was an excellent training ground.’

‘There are always economic difficulties with supplying restaurants. A lot of farmers speak about it but we feel a duty to plan around that so we can give restaurants – last year and this year – a little bit longer to pay. Having sold the restaurant (The Commoner) in 2016, it’s a really strange feeling watching our comrades go through all of this. Viability of restaurants is a massive deal. It’s a terrible economic model.’

We ask Jo how Covid has impacted the business (without once using the word pivot). ‘We’re making slightly different decisions about what we put into the ground. I’ve heard other farmers say they’re not going to grow as much. We’re growing the same amount; we will simply diversify and find more markets for what we grow. We are also working with the people that we currently grow with to build a farmgate so that locals have access to what we do without adding more fuel miles.

‘We’ve diversified into more retail and making sure people know they can get our stuff from there. Andrew McConnell’s retail outlets (and his restaurants) are a huge supporter of ours. We tell them what we’re finding, what we have and they work with us to make it into a retail offering. It’s added to the diversification of our business which I think is the key for the future for farmers.

‘The biggest change for us was the Farmers Markets inviting us in. They actually called us and said – are you okay? – which was amazing. They said we’re looking out for growers. We’re going to need more growers because Farmers Markets will stay open. We hadn’t done them before the pandemic. Every single thing that we were growing went there and it all sold.

‘The Farmers Markets has a huge following. It’s an incredibly safe environment. They’ve worked really, really hard on keeping those farmers markets safe and they’re open-air events. Matt and I cook at Farmers Markets now. We cook delicious things we used to serve in the restaurants. It’s filled a little hole because we’re just aching so much for restaurants right now.’

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Mushrooms Anonymous
WHERE: Selected farmers markets and retails outlets
MORE INFO: Mrsmushroom and Mushroomsanon

Bringing generations of farmland knowledge to the fore

Words by Della Vreeland
Images Supplied

Yarrawonga’s Vodusek family wants to create a special sort of culinary experience for its customers – one that is instilled with passion, sustainability and gratitude.

“We are passionate about the land, what we grow, harvest and create,” Ros Vodusek says.

We want to share and educate people about where their food comes from and be grateful to our fellow farmers.

With 35 years of experience as a chef, Ros is the frontwoman of Rich Glen – a farm that specialises in the production of olive-based products.

Managing the farm alongside her husband Daimien, and with help from her four children, she says the family brings a combined five generations of agricultural knowledge to the fore.

Rich Glen’s first olive trees were planted in 1998, with the first harvest taking place in 2003.

At first, the farm started selling bulk oil, but later took on a more viable business model which involved the manufacturing and selling of olive-oil products.

Ros and Daimien took over the Estate from Daimien’s parents in 2000 at which point they began selling olive oil from the back room of their Edwardian home.

Throughout the whole journey, the ethos of sustainability has underpinned the farm’s operations – from the implementation of water-efficient methods to the sourcing of sustainable raw materials and, more importantly, supporting other companies that share similar values.

“We are always looking at planting new crops to improve yield and improve the overall health of the soil,” Ros says.

“We are incredibly passionate about operating all aspects sustainably, from the agricultural side of the business to the manufacturing and distribution of our skin-care range.

“This allows the next generation coming up through the business to learn the importance of making smart, long-term decisions and forming a sustainable and environmentally friendly business model.”

The Rich Glen product range includes 150 olive-oil based food and skin-care products produced on the estate, as well as a variety of pantry staples such as meat rubs, dukkah, dressings, cordials and honey.

“Our Olive Oil is grown, harvested and pressed on our farm, so we believe we have the freshest and healthiest Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) possible,” Ros says.

“We love how versatile EVOO is, and we showcase that throughout our Nourish, Nurture and Radiance product range. It is simply the essential ingredient.

“We manufacture our entire range without the use of unnecessary artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives. Every ingredient on our nutritional panel is a single ingredient item that anyone could recognise.”

As well as producing their own olives, Rich Glen also manufactures its products on-site using ingredients, packaging and labels from Australian-made companies.

While Coronavirus presented a number of challenges for the Voduseks, namely the closing of their farmgate store and the loss of employees, Ros says it was also an opportunity for the business to reinvent itself and think more creatively about how to showcase Rich Glen’s premium offerings.

“Our journey here on the farm has been such a thrill. Every day is unique, challenging and simply creative,” Ros says.

“I love having the ability to wake up each day and do what I love, sharing this exciting journey with my husband and four kids.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of creating Rich Glen has been the ongoing positive feedback we receive each day. From a new customer discovering a new product and loving it, to a parent finally sourcing a natural skin-care product to use on their child’s eczema.

“We are always overwhelmed with the amount of people’s lives that we have the opportunity to influence each day positively.”


THE DETAILS:

WHAT: Rich Glen Olive Estate
WHERE: 734 Murray Valley Highway, Yarrawonga
OHO STORE: made.onehourout.com.au/collections/richglen
FIND OUT MORE: richglenoliveoil.com

Blue Tongue Berries

When you picture your idyllic tree-change, off-grid, post-corporate life, it pretty much looks like this place, just outside of Seymour. It’s perched on a hilltop, it is totally off-grid, and has a freakin’ cantina. Loaded with all the words you wrote down in your tree-change wishlist, Blue Tongue Berries boasts a straw-bale boutique accommodation, ridiculous rural views, a seasonal cafe, and 20 acres of farm. You’ll be forgiven for feeling like Nick and Cynthia are living the stylish off-grid life you had always planned.

The cantina is a seasonal thing, when the blueberries are ready to be picked there’s an abundance of them, so they make tarts, cook dumplings, and put on the tastiest lunch. It’s only during the season, though, so check their socials (links above) to make sure they’re open.

The cantina and hacienda are also available as an event space, and here is where your imagination can run wild. Book the accommodation, have friends over for a celebration, and when they’ve all gone, wake up in the serene surrounds of a hilltop haven.

If live music is your thing, Nick and Cynthia run events with local talent too. Again, staying appraised of the socials is the key.

By the way, when it comes to fulfilling the off-grid tree-change dream, Nick and Cynthia will be the first to ask, “What are you waiting for? Get out and do it!”

 

OHO in ISO: Nigel Wood from Truffle Paddock

Images supplied

Nigel is one of Australia’s most trusted truffle experts and is the founder of Truffle Paddock. The brand is named after his farm near Phillip Island. Truffle Paddock farm produces fresh black winter truffle which is sold to chefs and retail customers across Australia during the winter truffle season. He is also the founder of Truffle Melbourne, which runs an annual winter truffle festival program of more than 80 events including a weekend festival (now the largest outside Europe). The program usually runs from June through to August and includes truffle hunts at a number of Victorian truffle farms, truffle dining events and an education program for chefs.

How is the Truffle season looking?

Truffles are a seasonal pleasure and once the cooler weather arrives, they’ll ripen and be ready – so only a few weeks to wait now. You can never be really sure about how many there’ll be each year, but the early signs for the 2020 season are looking great – in our Truffle Paddock there are lots of truffles poking their heads through the soil right now – so I have my fingers crossed!

What does the future look like for small producers?

2020 will be a very challenging season for a lot of growers – large and small, as many restaurants in Australia and around the world are closed, drying up a lot of the wholesale and export markets (75% of Australia’s truffles are exported). But every year the number of people across the world appreciating the seasonal joys of fresh truffles is growing – and with lots of iso cooking going on, I reckon even more people will be hanging out to savour fresh truffles or experiment with truffle products this season. So 2020 is likely to be a bit of a “swings and roundabouts” year, but I’m optimistic about the future of the industry.

What will be happening with the festival this year?

The Truffle Melbourne festival weekend attracts tens of thousands of people to the Queen Vic Market each year, but because of lockdown protocols, unfortunately, that can’t happen this year. But the truffles don’t know about the virus – they’re coming to the party anyway, so we’re expecting lots of people to come to our Queen Vic Market Pop Up this season, we’ll be creating some online truffle recipes and working with our chef friends to organise some truffle take-outs across town.

How are you handling lockdown personally?

I’ve been in iso at Truffle Paddock farm for a month now, which is the best time to be here as I can better manage the farm with the truffles almost here. At other times of the year I’m usually at the farm on weekends, and busy with our Truffle Paddock products in the city during the week.

Early season truffles which poke above the soil need to be covered so they won’t be attacked by pests and will ripen properly, and there are always lots of jobs at any farm, so I’ve been busy with those too. My baking skills have really improved too – I love the tactile nature of working with doughs for breads or pizzas. I’ve also been able to cook something new most days with daily harvests from our veggie patch.

What’s helping you get through this period?

Getting dirt under my fingers in the paddock every day! And I’m really enjoying being closer to changes in the season. I like watching the grazing kangaroo “families” and getting to understand each group. I like seeing the rapid growth of mushrooms around the trees in the Truffle Paddock – these are a great indicator for how widely the tree roots have spread and therefore where truffles can be found.

Finally, the luxury of being able to isolate on a sixty-acre farm with lots of native forest to stroll through and a wonderful array of native animals in our other paddocks – including the odd nocturnal wombat strolling past – it’s a very different experience from pacing the three-metre balcony in our Melbourne apartment!


Find out more:

Truffle Paddock is Australia’s leading specialist truffle producer, exclusively using Australian grown French black winter truffle in all of their products, unlike most imported truffle products which use cheap summer truffle. The Truffle Paddock range features everyone’s favourite truffle products – oils, salts and honeys, and also some innovative and world exclusive products such as the hugely popular Ponzu Sauce, Truffle Aioli and Truffle Dijonnaise and Truffle Salad Dressing.

Pierrepoint Wines

Andrew and Jenny are the kind of family hosts you expect from a little cellar door on a private property. They love what they do, though like most growers and makers, they question their own sanity. We didn’t have any further questions after sampling the wines, though. They’re all a perfect education in terroir – that fancy French word for the intangible combination of place, climate, season, and ‘vibe’ that makes wines taste the way they do. Regular music gigs held at the venue make it worth signing up to the newsletter.

These little places are why we leave the city for a long weekend.

Buxton Trout and Salmon Farm

If you’re new to fishing, impatient, or really you’re just interested in a BBQ with fresh fish you caught yourself, then this place is ideal. The gear is supplied by the farm, you catch the fish, the friendly staff help you with the rest. Then, et voila, you have the freshest fish right there for your BBQ in the park-like surrounds of the farm.

There are several different areas of waterway on the farm, so if you’re impatient for lunch and just need fish now,  there’s a more densely populated pond where your plate-sized fish will volunteer fairly readily. If you’ve got more time and patience, and are happy to get a little more lost in the serenity, then there is a more challenging area with less fish for you too.

The BBQ area is substantial and well equipped, and the expansive grass area is perfect for throwing a rug down under a tree.

Benton Rise Farm

One of the reasons you take a trip into regional areas is that warm fuzzy feeling you get from seeing where your food comes from. It’s a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling to buy it from the farm and cook it for yourself. Benton Rise Farm has a service from their website where you can order their box of veg or make up your own for your weekend away, pick it up from the farm on your way down, and have all you need to cook delicious food in wherever your self-contained accommodation is.

If I can push the “fuzzy” link a little further, the mushrooms grown at Benton Rise are a highlight. We were lucky enough to try them in a dish on the menu at Merricks General Wine Store. Flavour country right there.

The Saturday morning farmers markets at the property are awesome, and staged from a “Red Rattler” train carriage.