How do you narrow down a five day trip overflowing with highlights to a single, defining experience? You go with your gut.
On my recent tour of Tasmania I was lucky enough to visit nearly 20 different organic farms, eco accommodation providers and sustainable food businesses. They were all genuinely excellent, but there’s one place in particular that I simply can't get out of my head: The Agrarian Kitchen, Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet’s outstanding paddock to plate cooking school in the charm-your-pants-off Lachlan Valley, 30 minutes from Hobart.
A lot has been written about the Agrarian Kitchen since it was established in 2007, but from what I’ve read, the focus has been almost exclusively on the cooking school. That’s all well and good - the school pays the bills - but what people seem to have missed in all the excitement about food is that first and foremost, Rodney and Severine are smallholders.
The school, and the experiences it provides for guests, exists in symbiosis with the five acre farm. And vice versa. The farm literally provides most of the ingredients used in classes, but it does so much more than that. It’s Rodney’s test lab, where he experiments with things like home grown grains and subtropical fruits, a source of fuel for the kitchen’s woodfired oven, a place to provide meaningful employment to locals, and a wonderful play space for their two young children.
The concept of smallholding (running a small rural land holding with the intent of providing food for a household) is the Agrarian Kitchen’s beating heart. The old schoolhouse and it’s purpose built kitchen is brilliant, but when Rodney takes you on a tour of the farm, it becomes obvious. He has an unbridled passion for his little patch of paradise. While describing a favourite plant Rodney’s speech becomes increasingly animated and hand gestures whirl about with ever more gusto.
Such enthusiasm for a place is rare, but when you see it first hand it is utterly infectious. I don’t have quite as much land, but I drove down the farm’s sunflower lined driveway with a brain freshly inoculated with possibilities. Maybe I could squeeze some pigs into the north east corner, plant a new berry patch near that fence, grow a patch of grain near the chook pen to make bread and beer.
I’ve visited hundreds of gardens and farms in my time, but none have captured my imagination quite like the Agrarian Kitchen. What Rodney and Severine have achieved on five ridiculously pretty acres is nothing short of magical. I completely fell in love with the place. Put it on your bucket list!
Justin travelled with the assistance of Tourism Tasmania. Rodney’s book The Agrarian Kitchen was released late last year and the farm’s website can be found at www.theagrariankitchen.com.
Organic Gardener published a story about the Agrarian Kitchen by Helen Cushing in 2012. To read the full article click here.
By: Justin Russell
First published: April 2014