Highlights of the
Diamond Creek Trail

Winding its way between Eltham and Hurstbridge, the Diamond Creek Trail is popular with bike riders, joggers and walkers of all ages, who come to explore the wonderful mix of playgrounds, wetlands, historic sites and cafes that make the trail so endlessly fascinating.

The trail is approximately 20 km in length with the northern end of the trail starting just near the Hurstbridge railway station. The trail mostly follows the flow of the Diamond Creek, diverting at times past the railway, bushland reserves and football ovals to end at Eltham Lower Park, just a 30min drive or train ride from the Melbourne CBD. 

There’s so much to see and do along the Diamond Creek Trail, so use our guide to plan your own trip along this wonderful treasure in the north east of Melbourne.

 

Your Guide to the Goulburn River and Ranges

The Goulburn River might not have the PR team of the mighty Murray but as Victoria’s longest river it has long been a part of peoples’ daily lives. It is the region’s lifeline of agriculture, a cultural and historic touchstone as well as a magnet for outdoor activities.

Your road trip offers so many waterways to choose from, including one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, enchanting waterfalls and secluded fishing spots. No matter the season, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking scenery, pretty little towns and down to earth hospitality as you wind your way through this special part of central Victoria – all within a short, easy drive out of Melbourne.

Here’s an itinerary to get you started.

Rosehaven Farms

We love coming across a business that is doing things a little differently and carving out its own niche. Rosehaven Farms, in the Wartook Valley (Western  Grampians/Gariwerd), have not only developed a unique business model, but one which is sure to make your heart melt. 

Three years ago, Pam and David Pratt decided to start running farm tours on their small property. The idea was inspired by Pam’s memory of spending time with the farm animals on her Aunties farm when she was a child. The experience she had of quietly connecting with animals, the routine of providing care, the chaos and the energy imparted, was something that stayed with her into adulthood. 

Now visitors to Rosehaven Farm may also experience the same joys of country living through hands-on tours hosted by Pam. The miniature donkeys are just the right height for pats and brushing and will happily munch on any carrot on offer. The alpacas stand a lot taller, but are as equally cute and will surround those bearing food as if wrapped in a fluffy doona. We particularly enjoyed the chaos that ensued when feeding the lambs, where we were eagerly followed around the paddock by the cutest gang of white fluff balls.

It’s not just fun and games though, as Pam provides wonderful insight into the history of each breed as well as interesting details around breeding and feeding requirements. It’s clear how busy Pam and David are when we pop our heads into the farm shop to see a room laden with beeswax soap, jars of honey, beeswax food wraps and alpaca fleece. There is also produce from nearby farms like Grampians Olive Co and Stapylton Wines, ready to stock up our pantry with.

Before departing Pam informs us of a program where guests can sponsor a donkey. For $25, sponsors receive a certificate and fortnightly updates from their donkey. It’s a fun activity for families to stay connected to the farm after their visit and all funds raised are donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital.

What began as a country escape for Pam and David and a place to connect with their passions for farming practices, has become an opportunity for them to share this passion with others, in the hopes that they will also form memories that will last a lifetime.

Discover more about the region here.

A food grower’s haven at Creative Harvest in West Gippsland

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images supplied

Picture this: rows and rows of straw-tucked vegetable sprouts reaching their way towards the sun. A rusty wheelbarrow bursting with fresh herbs. Fruit trees laden with colourful, plump spheres in a sprawling backyard. All this might sound a little dreamy for an city dweller who, contained to their (approximately) 54 square metre apartment, may aspire only to keep their temperamental peace lily alive.

But wouldn’t it be nice if we knew more? If we could see the possibilities of a functioning, flourishing veggie garden — and better yet, learn the ways of the gardeners that tend to them? Creative Harvest, West Gippsland’s open food garden weekend, is back on 28 and 29 January 2023 to inspire and educate all the hopeful home growers out there, from the beginner to advanced.

The two-day event opens the gates to fifteen private food-producing gardens—from small suburban backyards to large family farms. Creative Harvest is all about sharing gardening know-how and sampling some of the fresh fruit and veg grown by locals. This year, the event’s sixth iteration, 30 local artists and creatives including beekeepers, winemakers, jam makers, jewellers, mosaic makers, painters, printmakers and sculptors, will be dropping by select gardens to share their work.

“Creative Harvest is a celebration of sustainability and community and a showcase for West Gippsland’s creative movers and shakers. We aim to demonstrate how simple it is to start or expand your own thriving food garden – in your kitchen window box, small backyard or on a large lifestyle block,” said Kristy Plumridge, Chair of the Creative Harvest Committee.

And what better timing? Post-pandemic, people are looking to unshackle themselves from the supermarket monopoly and grow their own food. Whether it’s a strawberry or two on a windowsill or a towering tomato plant by the backdoor, any homegrown produce is a step towards self-sufficiency and sustainability. The organisers are expecting their biggest turnout this year, up from the 1000-strong crowd of 2022.

An additional four hands-on workshops will take place across the weekend as well. Visitors can buy tickets to learn skills in hot composting, preserving and fermenting homegrown produce, growing veggies from seed or extracting dye from local flora. If you’re looking for more of an informal education, growers and makers will be milling around all weekend for a yarn.

Enjoy a great weekend in West Gippsland; bring the family, or your friends, or your dog. Just don’t forget to bring a basket for the tasty Gippsland produce you’re bound to discover. Tickets can be purchased online and Single, Family & Senior Weekend Passes are also available.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Creative Harvest
WHERE: West Gippsland, multiple locations
WHEN: 28 and 29 January 2023
MORE INFO: Creative Harvest

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

New regional experience sees guests lunch, learn and reconnect with themselves

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

Partners in life and business Gorgi and Simon Coghlan have launched yet another inspiring enterprise, set to allure lovers of nature, food and wellness.

Set amidst the stunning surrounds of the Coghlans’ Bermingham Farm (and aptly titled as such), the project aims to nourish the body, mind and soul through a series of special events that will “provide a space for people to be the best version of themselves. To be better connected to their own story and the stories of others”.

‘We’re doing this for people to connect with themselves and come home to themselves,’ Gorgi says. ‘It’s a magical place for people to reconnect with who they are.’

People have come out of the pandemic after so much self-reflection, thinking – I am in control of my happiness and destiny, and that’s where I want to spend my time and my money.

Located just outside of Ballarat, the Coghlans have lived on their property for 10 years and have spent a decade pouring time, love and energy into perfecting their home. Now, they are ready to share it with all those who would like to partake of its wonder.

‘We’ve been planning this unconsciously for 10 years,’ Gorgi says. We’ve had friends here for parties and events who have said this is exactly what they’ve needed – to be back in nature, to reconnect and have their loads lightened.

‘There is something special about this place and about simplifying your life.’

The initial events to be held at the farm include a series of Lunch and Learn personal growth and wellness workshops at the property’s stables – facilitated by leading health professionals who will explore the acclaimed works of Dr Brené Brown, and hosted by Gorgi herself.

The events are comprised of meditation sessions, tours of the perfectly-manicured Bermingham gardens, delicious locally-made fare, immersive presentations, and – ultimately – the chance to “come home to yourself”.

‘When you want to seek help, you don’t know where to start. But Dr Brown’s work is so relatable. She shares her own flaws and struggles, and we are so lucky to have her work and her facilitators coming to our farm and acting as an entry point.’

From next year, the space will also play host to the Bermingham x Chef series and Bermingham Farm Garden series which Gorgi says would be a ‘celebration of agri-tourism’.

‘The Garden series will be really cup-filling and feature nourishing country cooking and preserving techniques, bringing exciting people to Ballarat and also showcasing bigger names in exciting different ways.’

With the Coghlans’ award-winning boutique Ballarat hotel The Provincial now on the market, the duo now has more time to spend on this labour of love and other projects – including more on-stage performances and a return to broadcasting for Gorgi in 2023.

‘We love hospitality and entertaining and so we thought – how do we combine all those things together? That’s what Birmingham farm has ended up being.’


THE DETAILS:

WHAT: Bermingham Farm
WHEN:  Events commencing in 2023
BOOKINGS: Bermingham Farm

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

Australia Post Stops Delivering on Farmhouse Direct

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

Just over ten years ago Australia Post developed a brand new online marketplace for farmers across the nation to distribute their food and products around Australia.

This groundbreaking eCommerce site was a central marketplace and took online orders from customers and sent the order plus cash, minus commission, to the farmer. The farmer then fulfilled the order and used Australia post to deliver the product. The programme was trialled in April 2012 and rolled out nationally after that. At the end of September, Farmhouse Direct will come to an end, forcing some food and beverage producers to find other methods of taking orders.

Australia Post believes that with the development of eCommerce apps and software, there is no longer a place for the Government-owned delivery service in food distribution. A statement from Australia Post read, “due to declining demand and a changing eCommerce landscape Australia Post has made the difficult decision to close Farmhouse Direct, effective Friday, September 30.”

It cites COVID as being an accelerator of the eCommerce field, stating, “During the pandemic, Australia saw around five years of eCommerce growth in the space of a year, prompting many small businesses to build their eCommerce capacity to accommodate the more than 5.6 million households now shopping online each month.”

Australia Post faced severe criticism in 2021 when it informed producers of foods such as butter, cheese, truffles, small goods and native bush ingredients that it would no longer deliver their perishable products offering just three months’ notice. It was a blow to many small producers who had already suffered sales setbacks due to COVID. Blowback from the food community saw the tax-payer-owned service backflip on its decision.

The decision to axe the groundbreaking service came as no surprise to many. Upkeep on the website has been lacking in recent times, with newsletters dating back to 2020 on the home page and hotlinks on recipes no longer working.

Food producers will still be able to use Australia Post to deliver their products but not the ordering system. Customers wishing to use Farmhouse Direct need to get their last order in by September 1.

After ten years, the site will go dark on September 30.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Farmhouse Direct
WHEN: Closing September 30
MORE INFO: Farmhouse Direct

Source locally harvested Saffron from Squirrel Gully Saffron

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

Saffron, by weight, is more costly than gold. But a little saffron goes a long, long way, a tiny pinch is an essential spice flavouring dishes from paella to bouillabaisse. The local saffron harvest has just finished and Rosemary Pamic and Andrew Black from Squirrel Gully Saffron have finished drying their precious threads and now have the 2022 season stock for sale.

“Saffron is the stigmas, thread-like parts of the flower of a crocus bulb,” says Rosemary. She and Andrew grow their bulbs in above-ground containers on their farm at Dunolly, halfway between Bendigo and Ballarat. “The crocus bulbs are easy targets for fungus and the raised beds offer better drainage,” she says.

The bulbs flower in late autumn and there is a brief fortnight when the flowers can be picked. The small blooms are hand-harvested before sunrise and the red saffron stigmas are painstakingly removed. They are then carefully dried to develop the aromatic compounds in saffron.

“There is a lot of fake saffron around,” says Rosemary. She refers to the ‘saffron powder’ an imported imposter that is artificially coloured and flavoured fakery. Some product sold as saffron can be stigma from other plants that has been artificially dyed.

The busy pair at Squirrel Gully Saffron also produce a range of saffron value-added products from rather delicious saffron-flavoured caramelised popcorn and saffron-flavoured salt. The product range is highly regarded and has been used in the kitchens at Goldmines Hotel in Bendigo and Trofeo Estate on the Mornington Peninsula. The 2022 season saffron is now in stock as are other saffron products such as dulce de membrillo, paella packs and cultured butter-making packs.


THE DETAILS

What: Victorian Saffron
Where: Buy online for $13 per 100mg at Squirrel Valley Saffron

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

Step-up your Sunday roast game with the Slow Cook Deckle

Words and Images: Richard Cornish

Farmer and butcher Alan Snaith is always coming up with new ways to trim and package his award-winning belted Galloway beef.

Based on his farm out in Clonbinane 70km north of Melbourne, he and his wife Lizette raise the cattle that they fatten on the lush pastures in Healesville and Macedon. The cattle are raised free range and processed when they are around 650kg or between 2.5-3.5 years. The Snaiths sell their beef under the Warialda Belted Galloway brand and have worked closely with chefs across Victoria to produce a highly recognised label selling the Scottish lowland beef.

In the past he has championed brisket years before the belly cut became popular with hipster meat smokers and developed fermented beef smallgoods with licenced processors. Alan trained to become a butcher and is known for his use of the boning knife to sculpt out the tender pieces of muscle that lay between tough and chewy connective tissue. He has given us hangar steak and bavettes. He carves out the tender banjo steak from the chewy blade.

His latest offer is the deckle. This is a cap that runs over the brisket. It needs slow cooking but is quite thin. If cooked until tender it would be quite dry. So, what Alan has done is layer up several pieces of deckle, seasoned each piece with Olsson’s garlic and lemon salt and trussed them up. The result is a lovely ingot shaped piece of beef, artfully strung that slow cooks to a sweet, juicy and tender piece of meat that is well seasoned and tangy.

Ideal served with vegetables and mashed potato or salad and polenta. It needs to be placed in a tray in which it just fits and placed in a hot oven for 20 minutes to get a little colour. It should be covered, the oven turned down to 120°C-140°C and slow cooked for between 4-6 hours depending on its size.

It needs to rest for 20 minutes, and the juices used to make a sauce.

What: Slow Cook Deckle $28 p/kg
When: Available now
Where: Buy online directly from Open Food Network, or from Veg Out Farmers Markets, Lancefield Farmers Market, Castlemaine Farmers Market, Bendigo Community Farmers Market

To flee the coop: Small producers calling it a day in exchange for family time

Words by Della Vreeland
Images Supplied

Eight years ago, Bruce and Roz Burton transformed their 20-hectare acreage into an operational farm growing award-winning Sommerlad chickens, and occasionally some sheep, cattle and old-fashioned fruit and veggies.

Just as nature intended, slowly and tenderly, the couple spent years finding the best produce with truly unique textures and flavours, and supplying some of Australia’s best chefs and restaurants under the name Milking Yard Farm.

Now, almost a decade later, and following two years of financial difficulties as a result of the health pandemic, the Burtons have made the decision to close up their beloved venture.

‘The business really wasn’t at a sustainable size in its current shape, so what that meant was I couldn’t afford to have enough help to allow me to get off the tills and spend more time running the business. It needed to be bigger,’ Bruce says.

‘Another of the challenges was that supply from the abattoir and boning room was at risk because they’re growing so much they couldn’t really handle us, so we were asked to find somewhere else if we could. That meant we’d have to build our own abattoir or coop and it’s a big investment.

It just wasn’t profitable enough.

According to Bruce, Milking Yard Farm lost all its restaurant revenue overnight once the COVID pandemic hit. ‘That was half the business,’ he recalls. While he says the farm did indeed ‘pivot’ – introducing the Community Sustained Agriculture model, as well as online sales – he says the business would need to expand significantly in order to remain viable.

The closure of small regional businesses is a familiar story in the current climate. The health pandemic, the soaring cost of fuel, the overseas war crisis, and even the interstate floods all have ripple effects when it comes to how businesses are coping. At the end of the day, business owners simply yearn for space to breathe and time to spend with their loved ones.

‘We will keep farming , running sheep and cattle, and growing food and spending more time with our expanding pool of grandchildren,’ Bruce says. ‘We’re looking forward to that.’

The tale’s the same in Healesville, where Yarra Valley Pasta has decided to close up shop after 25 years.

While the providore’s retail offering was consistent during the pandemic, owner Lisa Giffard says it was finally time to focus on her boys, her mum and her dad and diminish some of her stress for her own sake and that of her family.

She says with the rising price of fuel, and with the demand on wheat crops – particularly with the floods and overseas war crisis – now was a tough time to be a food producer.

‘When we opened in 1997 there was nothing in Healesville. You couldn’t get a decent cup of espresso anywhere, so we were new and exciting. Of course [the business] has had lots of different lives, but it was time to reinvent again and in order for the business to thrive, I would need to dig a lot deeper and find a different energy and headspace.’ she says.

‘All those floods in the northern rivers where our wheat comes from, and all the stuff happening in the Ukraine and overseas – the government could quite possibly want to allocate wheat to them and not to us. It’s interesting to see how the events in the world affect a little food producer like me. I know all those stresses coming up that are going to really affect me and ultimately my family.’

Yarra Valley Pasta was integral in cultivating the town’s reputation for artisan produce and global dining, so choosing to close its doors took a lot of courage on Lisa’s part. But she says she’s eager for the next chapter.

‘You have to have the confidence to do it,’ she says. ‘A lot of people are scared, and of course there are financial commitments and I get that.’

25 years is a long time. My time’s up. It’s alright to change and to do something different. When you close one door, another one opens.

For Bruce, he too is maintaining a positive outlook for the future.

‘The way it needs to be for small producers is to have direct relationships with customers,’ Bruce says. ‘Community Sustained Agriculture is the way of the future. It was evidenced in the pandemic. People are now prepared to buy online and have their food delivered to their home while they’re not there and have it sit at their doorstep.’

‘Our other hope is overcoming structural inefficiencies by having shared abattoirs and boning facilities available for multiple facilities because what’s holding our industry back is a lack of access to those facilities.’

‘Our final hope is that the genetics of birds like ours don’t get lost as growers like ours switch off their businesses. Ours was one of three heritage breeds in Australia, and we need to share and propagate the genetics broadly so reach is greater to consumers across the country and more people can experience chicken how it should be.’

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

Introducing exceptional salami from Colin and Sally’s Organic Farm

Words by Richard Cornish 
Images Supplied

Out in the green rolling hills at Dollar, between Mirboo North in the Strzelecki Ranges and Foster in South Gippsland, is a farm where Sally Ruljancich and Colin Trudgen raise their Angus cattle and Wiltshire Horn / Poll Dorset cross sheep.

They have been instrumental in the direct-from-farm movement in that part of the world for over a decade and are known for the exceptionally flavoursome lamb and beef. Ethics are essential to their operation from caring for country, soil regeneration, flock and herd health, and community care.

“In some farming models breeding cows and ewes are bred into the ground,” says Sally.

They are not cared for. All our animals are looked after throughout their life. Traditionally, old breeders are in bad conditions and sent to the market where there is not much return.

But because Colin and Sally look after their ‘girls’ so well, they are in such good condition when they are no longer able to breed that they still have high-value meat. “And I had always wanted to make small goods,” says Sally.

This is where champion salume maker Robbie De Palma comes in. The 7th generation Sydney small goods maker is a perfectionist. “He made it clear he would not take any trim,” says Sally. “He told us that salami is not a dumping ground for old, cheap meat,” she says. Colin and Sally sent their best rump and topside to the Padstow-based De Palma. “Beef is quite lean, so we also sent up back fat from the pigs raised by our friends at Amber Creek Farm,” says Sally.

Robbie De Palma is a traditionalist and uses the bare minimum of ingredients to make the salami. The meat is ground, mixed with fermenting culture, salt and pepper, then stuffed into natural skins. The salami is allowed to ferment at a reasonably warm temperature until the lactic acid bacteria produce enough acid to stop the bad bugs from getting hold. The salami is then slowly air-dried for weeks, preserving the salami.

The result is a great-tasting salami where the beef does the talking with a lovely hit of salt, a rich mushroom note from the naturally occurring beneficial mould on the outside, and a clean lactic acid tang. Slice fine and enjoy with crusty bread and a glass of wine from Dirty Three or Waratah Hills in South Gippsland. The salami is joined by beef bresaola (sold out) and in three months’ time, lamb culatello – salted and air-dried muscles from the hind leg.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Exceptionally good salami from South Gippsland
WHERE: Online from Prom Coast Food Collective, or instore at Stella’s Pantry and Leongatha Health Food
WHEN: Now and June 22 for the culatello
MORE INFO: colinandsallys.com.au

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