Paddock-to-plate pioneer, big city refugee, dreamer and idealist. Rodney Dunn is all these things and he shares the story of The Agrarian Kitchen.
There is something very unusual about visiting Tasmania for the first time, it’s the way it gets under your skin and stays there niggling away, that this amazing place could be, no should be home. For my wife Severine and myself we were searching for a place to move to from Sydney, it was to be a lifestyle change where we could grow beautiful food and live the type of life we have dreamt about with fresh air and a place for our children to grow up, not unlike the childhood I myself had.
It was from that point that the spark of the idea for The Agrarian Kitchen, offering paddock-to-plate cooking experiences developed. As Food Editor for Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine I knew that like myself there were many people hankering for a taste of real food, the kind of food that can only be experienced when at the source and only from food that had been allowed to grow naturally and allowed to ripen properly before being picked. We found the old schoolhouse in Lachlan in the beautiful Derwent Valley and after daydreaming out the windows knew it would make the perfect environment for us.
After moving in June 2007 we set about transforming the school and the surrounding five acres into our idea of foodie paradise, a process that is never really complete, even today and some part of me feels it will never be. Apart from the approximately two acres of vegetable garden and orchard in which we grow the produce for the classes we also have Wessex saddleback and Berkshire pigs, dairy goats, chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and geese, along with bees for honey and pollination of the garden. We have also added a smokehouse to the property that we use for classes and the Christmas hams.
The garden is our playground in which we grow over 70 varieties of herbs and continue to experiment with heirloom fruit and vegetable varieties, including trialling over 200 varieties of tomatoes, 20 or so bean and potato varieties and everything else we come across in seed catalogues, or can garner from fellow gardeners. The idea is not only for guests to experience cooking with the produce, but to also inspire them to go away and grow in their own gardens.