Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Organic Farm Stays in Australia

Yesterday I mentioned the tiny farm isle of Churchill Island where the year-round once-monthly farmer's market is held.

Today I'm featuring the third island in south east Australia's Western Port Bay: French Island.

Twice the landmass size of Phillip Island, where I've been for the past 10 days, French Island has comparatively few inhabitants bar a sizable koala population.

In fact, there are only 60 full-time inhabitants on the island who are outnumbered by a couple of thousand (from recollection) very cute and sleepy koala bears.

There was one part time celebrity resident, the pop-starlet, Kylie Minogue, whose secluded property was her getaway pad, until she sold it!

Apparently Kylie's farmlet had a full organic vegetable and fruit garden and plenty of koalas in the surrounding trees.

There's another more public organic farm on French Island, McLeod Eco Farm.

Formerly a mid-security jail and farm that operated until the 1970's, it was transformed into an eco farm that began offering luxury-to-budget farm-stay accommodation in the former jail compound (pic above) about 10 years ago.

The 220 hectare property is set in the middle of the island's National Park. There are 120 free-range hens (farm-stay visitors are welcome to collect their eggs) and there is 1.5 acres of organic vegetable garden where more than 1500 varieties of fruit and vegetables are grown.

The produce grown here is used in all the meals available to visitors in the farm's restaurant.

When I visited a number of years ago, there were lots of twenty-something travelers from around the world staying in the farm's budget-level accommodation--sensitively renovated jail cells--and tending the garden when not exploring the rest of the island.

Like WWOOF, Willing Workers on Organic Farms, McLeod's Eco Farm gives kids (and adults) from urban environments the chance to get their hands in the dirt and learn directly how to tend a garden from farm to table.

In Australia, WWOOF is a form of cultural exchange where wwoofers live and work on the host family's farm and learn about the skills of organic farming and the area they're visiting.

McLeod's Eco Farm is slightly different in that even the budget accommodation is not free, though at around $25 a night for a cell, it's still very affordable, and in conjunction with the hands-on farm experience, it really is a great way to explore rustic and rural island, the 234 bird species, 100 species of orchid, the rare, long-nosed potaroo, and of course the koalas.

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