9 November 2017

Windellama wins over tree changers

| Maryann Weston
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Gary and Leanne Lourigan were hard at work on Saturday at the Windellama Small Farms Field Day. The field day is the major fundraiser for the Windellama hall each year.

Small farms might not be big agricultural producers but they are pulling their weight in niche markets – a walkthrough of the renowned Windellama Small Farms Field Day revealed.

At the field day on Saturday, producers pointed to the growth of farmers markets and the public demand for fresh produce. Paddock to plate, rather than large-scale commercial production, is sought after by consumers looking for quality and organic foods.

While small farms can be a lifestyle choice for tree changers, there is also the opportunity to grow and market produce.

“There has been a lot of change in the Goulburn and district region from a rural community to a ‘blockie’ community. The emphasis, previously on two or three large agricultural enterprises, is now on a multitude of 50-100 acre (20-40 ha) farms,” Windellama Progress Association President Gary Lourigan said.

“We are getting people moving here and buying for the lifestyle, and also working in Canberra, and Campbelltown which is only an hour on the freeway.”

The field day attracted some 81 stallholders and last year around 3,000 visitors. It’s the major annual fundraiser for the Windellama Hall, a community-owned facility.

“We started 24 years ago, mainly for our agricultural community to attract information on issues relevant to them such as climate change but there’s been a groundswell in the last few years from about 30 stallholders to what we have in 2017,” Gary said.

“There’s been a lot of growth along the Wollondilly corridor and also from Canberra. People could sell their properties, buy a small farm and build a house but prices are changing now with the increase in demand for land here.

“That the agricultural footprint may have decreased is not a good or bad thing, but rather a fait accompli of the growth of this region.”

Danny Hansen from Yarralaw Springs Wines has turned a hobby into a viable concern on just four acres (1.6 ha).

For Danny Hansen who moved to Quialigo near Goulburn from Wollongong, starting his enterprise Yarralaw Springs Wines was initially a way to keep busy however it’s a hobby that is now turning a profit.

“We do everything organically; no chemicals. We planted the vineyard in 2001 and opened to the public in 2011. We do well,” Danny said.

“We also have 200 olive trees and produce traditional Greek style olives. These trees and the vineyard occupy just four acres of our 100 acre (40 ha) property.

“I’m working more hours now than I used to in my career but I have no regrets at all.”

Second generation and Collector based beekeeper Gary Poile finds a similar satisfaction in producing his natural honey products and selling directly to the public.

“I used to produce honey commercially but now sell direct and I’m having more fun doing that as there is an education component to what I do. It also allows the bees to do their own thing which is to produce honey,” Gary said.

Second generation beekeeper Gary Poile and his wife Felicity sell their honey products directly to the public.

The field day was also an opportunity for trade exhibits with stallholders travelling from Nowra, Sydney and Canberra.

“It’s a diverse crowd at the field day each year; stallholders and attendees. People come from Goulburn and outlying areas but also from the Wollongong and Robertson areas. We also have a Braidwood, Bungendore and Canberra presence,” Gary said.

For Gary and his wife Leanne, Windellama has proven a good choice for relocation from Jamberoo around 20 years ago.

“There’s camaraderie amongst blockies and with every new resident, we get new ideas. There are also young people moving here and they’re generating activity. One young resident suggested we have a movie theatre night on the oval, so we did,” Gary said.

“There’s a variety of backgrounds here and it reflects our egalitarian society. I love it; it’s great.”

You can find out more about the Windellama community, including information on its small farms’ field day here.

What do you think about the growth in small farms and the trend towards buying fresh produce from farmers markets?

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