LYING INTO LAUNCESTON is a beautiful way to start exploring Tasmania’s North West.
If you approach, like our flight from Melbourne did, over the Tamar River Valley, you’ll certainly regret having packed your camera with the baggage. Flying low, with the sunlight flashing as you cross inlets, oyster beds, spidery silver streams entering over green grassy flats, suddenly the country side gives way to a city that feels to have an approachable human scale. Big enough. We came in autumn and electric shocks of European trees in brilliant colour were interspersed between the suburban doll’s houses below. You just knew that something special was in the air and it proved true. When you land, Launceston Airport is, well, relaxed, and of a size to be found servicing any big country town. So, that’s a good place for you to start relaxing. Pick up your hire car and maps and while the sun shines, head for the countryside. The city will greet you quite happily when you return.
local member and his web site sings his praises and accomplishments in that short period.
Our bus trip then, was to show us Mark’s vision of why the quality and depth of the food and beverages available here, is worth promoting. And how, with some assistance such as a purpose built Business Park in My trip wasn’t by car, (but it will be next Devonport, Produce of Heaven can attain a time). I was on a small bus with a dozen premium price for its members overseas. other journalists headed for a rushed two days exploring the food producers in a small Well, by the time we got off the bus, and corner of North Western Tasmania. These back to the airport, we’d all agreed with growers and producers have been shepherded Mark’s vision. It was a sweet enough of a taste into a group called Produce of Heaven. No, of ‘down here’ Heaven to make us want to it’s nothing to do with the startling number do a complete Regional Food Australia issue of small community churches of almost and tell you more about its producers and the every religious flavour along every roadside. travel experiences waiting here. This isn’t ‘up there’ Heaven but ‘down here‘ Heaven we’re talking about, as in “wasn’t that Oh, we must mention Pristine, Clean and chocolate dessert heavenly?” Green, so we don’t have to mention it again. The marketing of Tasmanian produce chants The North West region’s agribusiness is that mantra and in a crowded, industrialised reported to be “the largest food and beverage Asian or Indian city it’s a very seductive area in Tasmania and accounted for 55% promise for the food from this island. While of total production in 2007. It is currently we will have to mention it again, we’ll let valued at $445M, and is expected to grow to the producers tell the story as we always do. $578M in the next few years”. That’s with a little marketing, innovation and distribution Despite the drought which has left some support from Produce of Heaven. The collective desolated areas in central Tasmania, with have already made marketing forays into the recent rain we were treated to green paddocks Taiwan and Hong Kong markets and in 2008 or neatly ploughed chocolate coloured fields. look to the new markets of Dubai and India. The images that follow demonstrate the beauty of this place, and the warmth of the people who This is a private initiative, not a Government showed us around their farms and businesses. one and it’s been the grand plan of local businessman Mark Baker and his backers While you’re waiting for the Regional (who expect to make I’m sure, a good return). Food Produce of Heaven issue, let me share Mark was the Liberal member for Braddon these photographs and comments with you. for one term 2004 -2007. He was a dynamic
hese are just some of the producers and wonderful places in Tasmania’s North West that we were introduced to by the Produce of Heaven group. There’s a lot more to discover.
The Drive. This is the only way to experience the region (most regions actually) in its depth. The ferry is a great way to save by bringing your own car, but the distances you’ll travel are not that great (it is an island after all) and hire cars are good value. There are maps and guides available in the racks of brochures in the airports and ferry terminals, but we recommend planning ahead. Visit the Discover Tasmania website www.discovertasmania.com and follow the links to the local tourist ones. 1 It was a big group that drove around the Kay’s farm at Nabageena. We were piled into the back of ute’s, 4WD’s and tractors. The hills were green and the soil soft so we slid around a bit but the view from the top of their property was worth it. The farm itself is well cared for and in a beautiful location. I was impressed by the how all the family worked together. Nice people. 4 -8 You get time to prepare for what the locals call The Nut and the town of Stanley at it’s base. The rocky shape of Circular Head is visible from every direction. Stanley itself is a beautifully sited town with heritage buildings, great B&Bs and short and long term rental accomodation. It’s a working fishing port and the seafood of course is terrifc. You can’t miss the big cray attacking the passersby at Hursey’s Seafood and Kermies take-away. Forget the burger’s, try the crayfish roll. Golden Kale, Ludrick, Magpie Perch? Yes please. 11 Well known beer writer Willie Simpson lives here and he’s started Seven Sheds to brew his own Kentish Ale. It has Kentish varieties of hops, fuggle and golding but it’s also the name of this shire which reminded the first English settlers of Kent. It’s good beer too. 12 Ghost Rock is one of the new vineyards, getting serious about replanting and improving their varieties. Part of that is also a tourist push and their attractive cellar door and good food.
13 Another successful extension of the North West tourist experience is Raspberry Farm Cafe’ at Elizabeth Town on the Bass Highway. Starting with the wonderful raspberries they grow, they freeze, chocolate coat, infuse and value add. 16-18 Korpershoek’s Dairy Farm showed us their attention to quality milk production. They even patiently held back a few cows to show the Asian journalists touring with us, how it’s done. 19 Peter and Una Rockcliff gave the company it’s name and Petuna Seafood is now being guided by General Manager Tim Hess. The company is championed by Tetsuya as being the best producer of farmed Ocean Trout and Atlantic Salmon. They own the fresh water hatchery at Cressy that supplies fingerlings to other Tassie seafood farmers. Yep that’s Muttonbird for sale. 22 Hellyer’s Road Distillery story was enthusiastically told by one of the farmers whose milk co-op turned to brewing malt whiskey when times were tight. His excitement for the new venture was evident. The fresh cream from the co-op next door is used in a range of whiskey liquers that you are sure to like even if you’re not a whiskey drinker. 24 Belgian born Igor Van Gerwen switched from being a pâtissier to start Anvers Chocolates. Local cream and butter team up with imported chocolate to make some really good products. Try the fudge, and the Aztec inspired chilli hot chocolate. There’s a small museum to interest chocolate fans. 26 Nigel Squibb is a third generation grower and now, as General Manager, has turned the Squibb family business into Tasfresh, one of Tasmania’s biggest fresh produce exporters (and importers from the mainland). Nigel was our guide on a visit to their office and distribution facility at Spreyton, just outside Devonport. He was also a chef at some of the formal dinners we had and is an advocate of using the local produce, simply prepared. So are we. Back Cover. The rubber stamps that mark the boxes of Tasfresh fruit with grower or variety. Forget the Pink Lady’s, I’ll have a heritage Sturmer thanks. Fred Harden.