November 2010

Women on Farms West Gippsland (‘WOF’) finished their 2010 calendar with a three day exploration of rural activities around Bairnsdale. Forty five members enjoyed a well organised and highly memorable trip to the east, appreciating the difference in rainfall, terrain and soils from what is familiar in West Gippsland.

While the return train journey was a highlight in itself, the farm enterprises visited were impressive and diverse.

Leadoux Turkeys welcomed the WOF group to their semi-intensive turkey property, with the birds housed in deep litter sheds and later in grassed yards. The turkeys are slaughtered and processed onsite, with the product subsequently sold at farmers markets and selected butchers.

On the Mitchell river flats the enormity of intense vegetable production was impressive. The scale of Bulmer’s vegetable farm had many of us in awe, let alone some of the statistics. For example, five million lettuces are planted per annum! This vast farm sells mostly through Sydney markets, where refrigerated transports deliver specially chill-packed vegetables including broccoli, capsicum, sweet corn, spinach and many lettuce varieties.

At Tamcal’s property near Swan Reach, the goals of ‘opportunistic’ beef feed lotting were explained, as well as the horse breeding program. Here the intention is to breed a stockhorse cross equine suitable in conformation and temperament for showing. Members with a keen ear for details were amused to note that the property visited was once owned by Slim Dusty, the late country singer.

Culinaire Herbs, Kitchen Garden and Cooking School provided an opportunity to appreciate and taste the products of the rich soils. Lunch, featuring produce from the garden, was served on a verandah overlooking the scenic Tambo River.

Now, what a treat to visit a feather farm! Also located near the Tambo River, Tambo Fine Feathers proudly showed WOF members the range of birds nurtured for their exotic feather production. Pheasants of many colours, peafowl, guinea fowl and several domestic roosters, are kept in separate pens to ensure that the feathers produced are in excellent condition for sale to craft workers, fly fishermen and milliners.

The final visit was to a wildflower farm at Sarsfield. Here, on 38 acres the current owners are developing their Sydney and Japanese markets. Twice weekly, refrigerated trucks, the same which convey the Lindenow lettuces, take proteas, waratahs, leucospermum, and other wildflowers to interstate agents and outlets. The relatively harsh growing conditions are balanced by sandy soil and reticulated

water. WOF members learned about the exacting processes involved in selecting and preparing flowers for sale. The number of hands and agents required to deliver flowers fresh to distant markets caused interest. There was also admiration for the couple who have taken up this property, their having moved out of the corporate world into the joys and new knowledge of flower production.

This multi-farm, Bairnsdale adventure was a highlight of the year for WOF, giving an appreciation of how different farming can be in adjacent regions. Evening meals gave opportunities to talk excitedly about the enterprises visited. Many WOFers also made sure they tasted the local produce and wines.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women – no need to be a farmer to participate. Phone our Secretary for membership information – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or, for information about the 2011 calendar of activities go to www.womenonfarms.org

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.