The most memorable experiences, those that enrich our lives and take us in new directions, are often hands-on activities rather than just taking a holiday at the beach. Somehow the whole person is opened up and engaged by the smell of nature and the outdoor activity. And contributing to the process of producing fresh farm products, instead of just repeating the leisurely bits of your normal life in a holiday location, is particularly satisfying and invigorating.
How about a fun, simple tour during which you learn to make cheese, hand hull coffee, or apply permaculture principles in your own backyard? What about making bread, producing your own pecan butter, or understanding how to make flower compositions firsthand? Elisabeth Deschaseaux has a 14-seater van and can pick you up from the centre of town and take you on a farm tour on which these sorts of experiences are possible.
Sure, it’s not going to be a university course, but the good thing about these day tours is that Liz, originally from France, has a PhD and a couple of post-doctoral fellowships under her belt; so if you have questions – ask away! Liz’s grandparents were farmers, first in Morocco and then in Pau (south-west of France), and she spent summers on their farms. Whilst she actually got her PhD in marine science, not flower composition, she loves farming and teaching people about sustainable farming practices, and working with the farmers as they share their knowledge with the community.
‘My favourite experience was to volunteer on a small hobby farm near Kyneton, in Victoria,’ says Liz, ‘where I learned how to milk cows, make cheese, bread, jam, salsa… we were doing everything ourselves. It was one of the most grounding and rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life. When I met my best friend Rene, he also aspired to live on a farm one day and to become self-sufficient. But because we don’t have enough money to start our own farm, I decided to start partnering up with different farms within the Northern Rivers to deliver farm tours and workshops to the community.’
They now have four partner farms: Zentveld’s Coffee in Newrybar (coffee plantation tour), Barefoot Farm in Eltham (pecan nuts tour), Djanbung Gardens in Nimbin (permaculture workshop) and Olive Gap Organic Farm in Woodburn (flowers and essential oil workshops). The business is slowly growing, and they hope to have ten partner farms by the end of 2021 to offer an even wider range of farm tours to the community.
They want people from big cities to see more than ‘just Byron Bay’; to discover the Byron hinterland, explore the Northern Rivers, meet local farmers, connect with their land and with ‘Country’ (in the Aboriginal sense). The tours are interesting for groups and families, Hens and Bucks weekends, or corporate events such as team-bonding activities. The tours include return transportation to the farm site, a farm tour given by the farmer and a morning or afternoon tea featuring the signature products of each farm, but don’t worry, you’re not just shuffling around, these tours are very hands on.
So, if you’d like to grow that part of yourself that can be a ‘farmer’, rather than endlessly feed the part of you that is a ‘consumer’, this tour is for you. ‘People need to know where their products come from and what it takes to produce high-quality food,’ says Liz. In the end, your whole life will be richer.
Our Farms Northern Rivers