Taste Farm Life

Welcome to Turf ‘n’ Surf, a podcast that tells stories in Queensland’s farming, fishing, biosecurity and forestry sectors.

For generations, the beach holiday has been a staple of Australian family life. But it’s not for everybody, and times and tastes change as people move through life.

But what to do and where to go if you’re craving a different holiday or day-trip experience?

Queensland’s farmers might just have the answer. Agritourism offers a variety of holiday experiences far removed from traditional beach holidays, island getaways, and tranquil rainforest adventures.

In this episode of Turf’n’Surf, we’ll look at how holiday makers are harvesting new holiday experiences, how a crop of Queensland agripreneurs are reaping the rewards of an innovative approach to their business, and how Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is sowing the seeds for a vibrant agritourism industry that allows holiday makers and tourists to taste farm life.

Meet our guests

Amy Holmes Amy Holmes
Lyn Eather and Carl Holmes Lyn Eather and Carl Hendrick
Adam West Adam West

TRANSCRIPT

Program intro: Welcome to Turf’n’Surf, powered by Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: The beach holiday. Cliff Richard, the Beach Boys, and many others have, literally, sung the praises of a spending a week or two at the beach.

And for generations, it’s been a staple of Australian family life.

Pack the family up for some quality time enjoying sun, surf, sand, fishing, beach cricket, and barbecues.

Good times indeed! But it’s not for everybody, and times and tastes change as people move through life.

But what to do and where to go if you’re craving a different holiday or day-trip experience?

Queensland’s farmers might just have the answer. Ironically, it’s an answer born out of the need to keep their businesses going in the face of multiple challenges including drought, fire, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Out of necessity, farmers have taken an agile and innovative approach to keep their businesses profitable, diversifying to embrace the opportunities offered by agritourism – or farm tourism.

Agritourism offers a variety of holiday experiences far removed from traditional beach holidays, island getaways, and tranquil rainforest adventures.

I’m Brad Muir. In this episode of Turf’n’Surf, we’ll look at how holiday makers are harvesting new holiday experiences, how a crop of Queensland agripreneurs are reaping the rewards of an innovative approach to their business, and how Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is sowing the seeds for a vibrant agritourism industry that allows holiday makers and tourists to taste farm life.

Program segue: You’re listening to Turf’n’Surf, the official podcast of Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: Amy Holmes is a mother of two from Birkdale, a bayside suburb just south of Brisbane.

Over the years, Amy and her family have enjoyed a variety of holiday destinations including both the Gold and Sunshine Coast hinterland, Stanthorpe, Hervey Bay, and Northern New South Wales.

Amy’s children love the bush and animals. So in early-2021, the family went to open days at Tommerup Dairy Farm and Towri Sheep Cheeses, both located in South East Queensland’s picturesque Scenic Rim.

Thanks for joining us Amy. How did you find out about the open days and what about it appealed to you for a day out?

Amy Holmes: So a friend told me about the Scenic Rim Farmgate Trail Event, and I just took a look on Facebook, and we checked out what was open that day, and we just picked those two farms.

They seemed like good places for us to visit with the kids, and lots of things for them to do.

And it just appealed to us because we love going for days out exploring different places, and the kids love seeing animals, so that was really, it seemed like a really great day out.

Host: So it already ticked a number of boxes for you. What was the family’s reaction when you broke the news to them that they’d be going to Tommerup’s and Towri Sheep Cheeses?

Amy Holmes: Oh, they were excited, and we’d looked at some photos on Facebook of what animals they have there, and all the baby animals, and feeding the animals.

So the kids are really excited and, you know, we promised them ice cream, so of course that’s always an exciting thing for the kids. So, yeah, they were really looking forward to it.

Host: So it sounds like it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get them to go, so tell me about your experience at Tommerup’s and Towri; what did you do while you were there?

Amy Holmes: So we went to Towri first, and we got to meet all their sheep, and the kids got to pat them and tried to feed them some grass, and we grabbed some cheese while we were there from their shop.

And then we headed to Tommerup’s, which was great, the kids got to look around the farm, got to sit on a tractor, and I’d bought passes to feed the animals.

So we got all packets of food for the animals, and we spent ages doing that. They loved being able to feed all of the different animals.

My son thought feeding the sheep was hilarious. So he was pretty shy at first, but now he loves them, so that was really positive.

And then we got to do a little walk down to the river there, which was beautiful. And we had a picnic lunch at Tommerup’s as well, so that was beautiful, there’s a beautiful view there.

And we’d pre-purchased some produce as well, so we got to grab all that and put it in our esky before we headed home.

Host: So I think I already know the answer to this question, but I’ll let you put it into your words, how did the farm experience compare with your previous holiday experience, as in how did the family rate it?

Amy Holmes: Yeah it was really great. I think the kids probably prefer being out in the country, and I think my husband and I probably prefer it being out in the country than the beach as well.

So it was just good to be up close with the animals, seeing such a wide variety of animals, and being able to see where produce comes from, and we’ve been able to purchase some lovely food out there, it’s really great.

Host: So the day trip sounds like the perfect way to dip your toes in the farm stay holiday water, do you think you’ll go back for a longer stay?

Amy Holmes: Yeah, we’re, we’re actually looking at booking a farm stay for our next holidays. Just looking around, picking the right place and, yeah, it will be, be a lovely holiday, nice and relaxing hopefully.

So, yeah, we’re definitely looking at going for a longer stay.

Host: Amy, what tips do you have for anyone considering a similar style of holiday or day trip?

Amy Holmes: We like to plan our trips, so we, we look at what’s around the area.

So what kind of local businesses we can support, you know, stopping for lunch at a little café or a bakery, and then taking our eskies so that we can stock up on different produce from either local butchers or farms, depending on where you’re going.

And we take some cash so that we can always buy food on the roadside. And then when you’re visiting animals we always say, you know, take your boots so that, so that you can get muddy.

But yeah, just keep an eye out for these kind of events because it’s really a great way for kids to meet animals, you know, on a farm, rather than, rather than at a petting zoo, like a lot of kids that’ve probably only seen animals like that.

Host: Amy, you don't mind a bit of variety in your holiday destinations. What would you say to people who have a traditional or favourite holiday spot, to convince them to try something different like a farm holiday?

Amy Holmes: It’s definitely worth trying because it’s so beautiful out there, and so many people haven’t been out in the country or out on a farm like that.

And I think it’s really important for kids to learn about where their food comes from and see animals on the farm.

And it’s so important to support our local farmers, our producers, especially in times when they’re doing it a bit tough.

And it’s lovely to get out in the fresh country air, so good to do something different especially with kids, lots of variety.

Program segue: This Turf’n’Surf podcast is powered by Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: On this episode of Turf’n’Surf, we’re looking at how agritourism is offering new experiences for holiday makers and new business opportunities for Queensland producers, and how Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is bringing them together to taste farm life.

Lyn Eather, her partner Carl and mother Olive run Myella Farm Stay at Baralaba, two hours south of Rockhampton in Queensland.

Lyn’s family has lived in the area for more than century and, with Carl, Lyn runs an 1100 hectare beef cattle farm at Myella.

In the early 1990s, a perfect storm of drought, an overseas holiday, an awkward family conversation, and a competition inspired Lyn to find a better way of educating people about what farmers do.

Thanks for joining us Lyn and Carl. Lyn, how did those very different experiences lead you to deciding that offering tourists an authentic farm stay experience, a taste of life on the farm, was the way forward?

Lyn Eather: Well as someone who has loved growing up on the farm and being a bush kid, it always made me sad when there was drought and like hard times for my family.

Although we had the cattle property, we also found another income, which was harvesting wheat. During that wheat harvest we met international farm boys that would work for us, which inspired some international travel.

And the opportunity came to me to go overseas, and I went to Bangkok. It was a scary city, but Chiang Mai, the countryside, was wonderful, and to not feel like a tourist, to be part of the people and understand how they lived and worked was very inspirational to me.

And, coming home from that, I visited some Sydney family and trying to explain to them how we lived, and it was the first time I’d struck some negativity towards our farming practices.

And the conversation didn’t go so well, and it was awkward, and we couldn't explain and justify what a great job we were doing on the land.

Then Nescafe had a Big Break Award, where you could think of a great business idea they could give you some business funding, I think it was about 10,000 bucks in those days.

And I couldn't think of a damn idea to come up with, but I was thinking there’s a better way to communicate with holidaymakers or anyone that was interested to see how we really lived, to demonstrate it, instead of having to put it into words.

And, somehow, my parents were very supportive of this crazy idea of farm stay beginning.

Host: So out of that melting pot of experiences came that spark of inspiration to go into farm stay holidays.

Carl, as Myella’s Business Manager, you’re very much hands-on in the day-to-day running of the business. So tell us about it. Who do you cater for, is it long term stays or day trippers, and what type of accommodation do you offer?

Carl Hendrick: We cater for holidaymakers and workers alike, workers that are normally looking for just accommodation and meals, and maybe doctors, relief teachers or nurses working in the local community.

As for the holidaymakers, we cater for singles, couples, families, larger families, or groups of friends, and they can come for day trips or stay for really as long as they like.

We’ve got ensuited rooms, double rooms, family rooms, a small cottage for larger families, and we’ve even renovated the original farm homestead. And we’ve also got rooms with shared bathroom facilities, and camping is available.

Host: So there’s a variety of accommodation styles. What about experiences when people stay there, what can they do?

Carl Hendrick: Yeah, we’ve got three main experiences and two of them are quite obvious. There’s a half day horse ride tour, which includes a safety briefing and introduction into horses, and then we ride out on the farm and experience the farm from horseback.

The second is a half day farm experiences tour, where we do some of the classic farm activities, like milking cows or spinning a rope or whip cracking. And we also do a drive down the farm to show those people how we manage the farm and the cattle.

The third is not as obvious an experience, because it’s simply spending time with us, living our everyday life, caring for animals as need be, maybe doing some farm repairs, whatever it takes.

Host: So apart from the obvious economic benefit to your business, what other outcomes has opening Myella up to tourists had for you?

Carl Hendrick: Well the main thing is what Lyn mentioned earlier, and that is we’re able to educate people on farm life, on life out in the country.

You know, sometimes farmers can get a bad reputation, but here we get a chance to educate the people and show them that farmers really care for their animals and for our land.

We also get to hear first-hand their comments or concerns, which can give us food for thought, and sometimes it can lead to a change in our practices, you know, what we do and how we do it.

Host: And what advice do you have for people considering a taste of farm life for a holiday?

Carl Hendrick: Look my advice is come out and give it a go. Come and see us, we’re not far off the coast.

Everybody has a great time, the kids are happy, the parents are happy, and who knows, most people leave here, and they’ve learnt something new.

Host: And Carl, very quickly, where can people go to find out more about Myella Farm Stay?

Carl Hendrick: Look, you can find Myella Farm Stay on Facebook or Instagram. You can also find us on our website, www.myella.com, or send us an email at farmstay@myella.com.

Program segue: You are listening to Turf’n’Surf, the official podcast of Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: On this episode of Turf’n’Surf, we’re looking at we’re looking at how agritourism is offering new experiences for holiday makers and new business opportunities for Queensland producers, and how Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is bringing them together to taste farm life.

Adam West is Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries North Region Regional Director for Rural Economic Development.

As part of his job, Adam has overseen the Department’s efforts to promote agritourism opportunities to both producers and the general public.

Thanks for joining us Adam. Why is the Department promoting agritourism and what exactly is DAF doing in this space?

Adam West: We know Queensland farmers have been doing it tough with drought, natural disasters, and obviously the impacts of COVID-19.

For some businesses, diversification may now be a real option, and agritourism is a real growth area.

That’s why the Queensland Government established a $2 million agribusiness diversification project as part of it’s COVID Unite and Recover Plan to assist agribusinesses to diversify and become more resilient, but with a primary focus being agritourism.

DAF is now working very closely with industry groups like QFS and AgForce, and other agencies such as Tourism Events Queensland, to raise awareness and profile food and farm experiences for travellers visiting rural and regional Queensland, either as a day trip or potentially as a longer extended holiday.

So I’m talking things like farm visitation and stays, pick your own produce, other food and farm experiences. It’s about connecting people with the origins of their food, and the farmers that grow it, pretty much all that’s great about rural life in Queensland.

As part of the project, we’re working with individual businesses who are looking at diversifying their agribusiness to include or expand into a commercial tourism component.

And there’s also some targeted financial assistance available to assist agribusinesses, and to support regional and local food and agritourism events, and all of this culminates in the Queensland Government’s Taste Farm Life campaign.

Host: If I’m a producer who’s looking to get involved in Taste Farm Life, what should I do, who can help me get started?

Adam West: My best advice would be for people to start is to look around at other agritourism experiences, talk to people, and grow and develop your ideas.

Start with a basic plan with questions like, you know, who will be running the agritourism side of the business, how many days a week do we want to do this, and I guess most importantly, what’s the objective of the agritourism business diversification element.

Once these basic ideas are formulated, speak to your local authority or council to determine what some of the planning and development considerations may be, and I’d also strongly recommend connecting to any local or regional food agritourism or tourism networks, just to better understand more about the sector, the existing businesses in the market, and obviously the clients they’re aiming to attract.

With this foundation, I guess this is where the Department’s really well positioned to assist.

There’s support information available through the Department’s one stop service, that can be found through the Business Queensland website, but we can also connect you with one of our experienced and local Departmental Agribusiness Development Officers who can engage, start to tailor the right services and connections to support your business, and get things happening.

I also want to mention that DAF’s running a series of regional capacity building and mentoring workshops as part of the Taste Farm Life initiative, just to provide producers looking to diversify into agritourism and expand their existing businesses with some additional information.

So through these workshops, producers and farmers can refine their ideas, get better connected, explore in more detail the support services and funding that may be available to take their projects forward.

Details on each workshop will be available through the Taste Farm Life website, and I just strongly encourage people with an interest to register as there will be, you know, limited positions available.

Host: So what are some of the success stories, agripreneurs who have added the tourism string to their bow?

Adam West: Well for me, since I’ve been involved with this project, it’s just been amazing to learn about the array and diversity of agritourism businesses that are already out there offering incredible food and farm life experiences right across Queensland.

You know, from the Scenic Rim in the Southeast to Bundy, beautiful Mackay, Whitsundays, right the way up to the Tablelands and the Wet Tropical Coast of Far North Queensland.

It would also be very remiss of me not to mention the businesses and unique experiences that are also available way out west in Outback Queensland.

But top of mind, businesses like Tommerup’s Dairy Farm in the south, Splitters Farm near Bundy where, you know, it’s a caravan park and farm stay, Frosty Mango here in the north with some beautiful natural ice creams from tropical fruit, Leahton Park west of Townsville here where you can have a Texas Longhorn cattle experience, and on the Tablelands, things like Jaques Coffee, Gallo Dairyland, and Mt Uncle Distillery, you know, just incredible.

Tropical fruits, ice cream, cheese, chocolates, coffee, whisky, you know, it doesn’t sound like a bad day out to me.

There’s also so much out there, and I’d encourage everyone to consider, you know, deviate from your traditional beach holiday, whether it’s a day trip or extended stay, and get out and taste farm life.

Experience the very best of what rural and regional Queensland has to offer. I also just want to mention that we’re working hard in partnership with local tourism groups, not only to support and profile individual businesses, but also to create regional clusters for food and farm experiences, and to support and get in behind regional events that visitors and tourists can then experience.

Host: Well you’ve won me, I’m ready to book my next holiday right now. Taste Farm Life embraces such a wide range of activities and opportunities, give me a rundown of what’s on offer?

Adam West: We structure the project around three main groupings of activities, so that means farm experiences.

We’re actually getting the detail around businesses where you can pick your own fruit and veg, you know, the food trail, farmer’s markets, farm to plate dining experiences, farm gate sales, cellar door sales, farm tours and animal-based experiences, on farm cooking classes, and of course farm stays.

For individual agribusinesses, we’ve got a range of support material and services available, and I’ve spoken about some of those. How to best plan some of those workshops around capacity and mentoring, and the financial assistance.

And we can also provide pretty good detail on connections to regional tourism clusters and organisations and associations that are already in this space.

And, I guess to round it out, we’re now starting to bring together a listing of upcoming events and festivals at a regional level that people can avail themselves of and guide the timing and where they want to go.

So, if you’re a business out there with an agritourism offering, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you and link you into the Taste Farm Life campaign.

Host: Adam, to wrap up very quickly, where can producers and those interested in a farm staycation find out more about Taste Farm Life?

Adam West: qld.gov.au/tastefarmlife, that’s the website. That website is where you’ll find a range of information on agritourism experiences for tourists and travellers.

It will also have all the information for individual agribusinesses looking to diversify or expand in the tourism space.

Alternately, just use the DAF hotline, 132 523, and our staff will put you in contact with relevant Agribusiness Development Officers, and we’ll be ready to help and get things started.

Program outro: You’ve been listening to Turf’n’Surf. Turf’n’Surf is produced by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. For more information or to subscribe, visit our website at daf.qld.gov.au.