Thirty years ago Jason and Marg (that’s them with some orchard visitors) came to live in their “green desert’ – 96 acres of dairy pasture with barely a tree (5 macrocarpas says Marg) just outside Warragul.  With the early sparks of Permaculture firing their imaginations and the seed they’d strategically collected from street trees around Canberra, they established a demonstration tree farm designed to encourage others to grow trees for windbreaks, habitat, firewood, fodder and timber production.  Once they had dams, windbreaks and timber trees in they started planting fruit – plums, persimmons, peaches, nashis, walnuts and chestnuts but mostly apples – heaps of apples.  There are thirty different varieties of apples at Hazeldean Forest Farm,
A lifetime ago Marg worked in the Pacific Islands where the locals made their gardens into “a paradise on earth” – Hazeldean Forest Farm has been their take. Thirty different apples, thirty types of eucalypts, thirty other natives, ten types of oaks, multiple chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and all kinds of odds and ends planted for protection, curiosity or something tasty. Marg and Jason say the change after thirty years  is incredible (there’s also always lots of pruning to do).  As the windbreaks and woodlots matured and the 4-acre dam with its island refuge filled, the wildlife came back; the frogs, the little insect-eating bats, koalas, echidnas and most exciting for Marg the birds.

When they first came there were a few crows, magpies and the odd wagtail but these days you’ll see and hear wedgetail eagles, little splendid wrens, fantails, cockatoos, rosellas, shrike, whistlers, grey thrush, wattlebirds, swan harriers, ibis, currawong (I really couldn’t write fast enough to get them all down) and the number and variety of birds keeps expanding every year.  (For the hungry cockatoos and currawongs a Birdguard speaker system scares them off!)

After 30 years their bodies have a catalogue of aches but they’re still in love with it.  It’s the sensually satisfying veggie garden for Marg, while for Jason it’s the doing of it and the joy of seeing theories they put into practice decades ago actually working to create a place so much better than the one they found.  I’d love to know the amount of carbon these two have locked up in their time – should be some sort of Australia Day award category.
These days Marg and Jason host plenty of wwoofers and share their knowledge with others wanting to do the same. Like many others in the district, their neighbours have gone organic and their chooks range through the orchard. They’ve also diversified with a 10 variety apple cider (they’re not letting on which ones) and this year Marg put down 2000 litres of apple cider vinegar.  The cider in large champagne bottles is developing quite the cult following and we’re looking forward to stocking the ACV at Fair Food later this year.
If you’d like to see Hazeldean Forest Farm in action (I forgot to say you’re eating Jason and Marg’s summer red apples and blood plums in many of our mixed boxes) they’re holding a 30th Anniversary Permaculture Picnic  on Sunday 21st February as part of the Sustainable Living Festival.  At the picnic you’ll hear some music, be able to wander through the Eastern orchard drinking cider and foraging for apples (Jason says there’ll be 10-15 varieties of apple ready to eat) and ask questions in one of Australia’s most extraordinary food forests.  Happy anniversary Hazeldean.

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