What goes on tour

What goes on tour

2000 1333 Table Under a Tree

What goes on tour, stays on tour…

Heck no! I get asked often about what kind of farms we go to on our foodie tours, what type of farmers we introduce you to and critically, what array of food will you get to eat!

All logical and fundamental questions!

With that in mind, I thought I’d walk you through a recent tour, giving you a glimpse into the real people, real places and real food you might experience on a tour. On this day, I picked up a happy crew from Federal and set out for a day of adventure. First up was the spectacular La Finca Booyong, home to around 900 laying chooks, as well as a menagerie of cattle, alpacas, lambs, cats and dogs. Katie Wessling is the sixth generation of her family to run the 45-acre farm at beautiful Booyong, and she has turned the farm is now a thriving free-range egg business.

Katie is a character if ever I’ve met one and she happily regaled our group with everything from the story of how she convinced her husband to get them into egg farming, to the lengths she’s going to as she reconditions an egg sorting machine that looks like it comes from another era. Watching it in motion was mesmerising. Katie took the group from through the whole process, taking them into the paddock to see the nesting caravan and up into the production room where each egg is individually checked, stamped and packed. An eye opener for anyone who didn’t know how labour-intensive free-range egg farming can be.

Next stop was the bucolic Wattle Tree Creek, where Claire Parry uses everything from cinnamon myrtle, lemon aspen, sea parsley, quandong, sea celery, native pepperberries and rosella in her range of artisan sauces, jams and condiments. Claire’s 25-acre fruit and macadamia farm is home to over 25 varieties of produce with much of that going into her Wattle Tree Creek goods. Claire’s latest project is her own bush food orchard producing some incredible ingredients.

Claire and partner Mark led the group around the orchard, showcasing the amazing range of fruits, bushfoods and nuts. Seeing the look on the faces as they saw Jurassic-looking jackfruit hanging from the trees was fantastic and was second only to seeing them taste it, most for the first time. That’s one of the things I find most rewarding about the tours – giving people a glimpse into a world they wouldn’t otherwise see.

Speaking of tasting, Claire’s legendary lemon myrtle scones provided a much welcome morning tea boost – with Mark doubling as barista on the espresso machine – and paired perfectly with her great range of jams, chutneys and other saucy goodies. Happy faces all around!

From Claire’s we headed off to Esperanza Farm to visit Jerrod and Susannah Henderson. The pigs at Esperanza are delightful and Jed was generous with explaining the ins and outs of being a pork farmer. Like many farmers in the region, his concern for the availability of pasture for his pigs was at front of mind. Hearing him talk through the rising cost of supplementary feed was a telling mark of just how real the drought is, even for farmers in the sub-tropics. A taste of the various sausages and chorizo wrapped up the stop and we were headed on our way (not before a few purchases made their way into the esky we always have in the vehicle ready and waiting!).

Lunch at Eltham Valley Pantry is always a happy affair and provided a chance to enjoy the great local produce as sampled on Ash and Matt’s menu. There’s never a shortage of food on our tours so after a hearty lunch, we took the opportunity to learn about the pecan orchard which surrounds the café. Matt very kindly took the group through the process from tree to plate, explaining how it all works and what the inherent challenges are. Listening to him talk about this niche industry was brilliant and provided the perfect introduction to the dessert platter that following, naturally featuring pecans in so many delicious ways!

Things were getting a little nutty by this stage, so it was only logical that our next stop would be calling in to see Ian Mulligan at Tullamoor Macadamias. Ian has been farming macas for 40 years, first on a 500-acre farm at Rocky Creek and now at a beautiful property at Dorroughby. Even after all these years plying macadamias, he still loves a chat and can tell a myriad of stories about how the industry has grown.

This was a great chance for our visitors to hear about the nut that is so ubiquitously associated with our region, and Ian was able to talk about the changes that maca farming has seen over the many years he’s been a part of the local industry. He also does a mighty fine impersonation of the koalas that roam his property, which kept everyone amused, me included! Naturally, we had to taste some of his nuts and maca butter – as if anyone was hungry at this point!

On our way back to Federal I did throw in a quick addition to the schedule, with a stop at Table HQ to introduce our group to Cheeses and Butterball given it was nearing feeding time for the boys. Cheeses and Butterball are our potty calves from Debbie at Cheeses Loves You, and I knew that our 12-year old tour member would get a kick out of hand-feeding the calves. And it seemed only polite to give the group one final tasting of some of Debbie’s beautiful cheese!

Well fed – the calves and the group! – it was time to drop everyone back to their accommodation after a great day out. There was a car full of smiling faces, mine included. On a personal level, I get a lot out of doing the tours and really enjoy being able to give visitors a glimpse into the authentic life of a farmer/producer here in our region. With a different itinerary every time, the one constant is that you’ll taste some great food, meet some absolute characters and see into the day-to-day life of farming. It’s not a glossy picture-perfect tour, but it is always a chance to meet real people making real food at real places.