No matter which direction you’re coming from, it’s the hand-drawn signs and ‘honour boxes’ on the side of our country roads, that offer you clues to one of the biggest preoccupations of the folk in this beautiful region of ours.

These may spruik potatoes or other freshly harvested fruit and vegetables, eggs, honey, preserves, compost and even animal manure. “Local organic horse poo” proclaims one regular sign near a stack of well filled bags. You stop the car, drop the notes and coins in the honour box and fill your boot.

In season there might be punnets of blackberries, chestnuts, mushrooms, bunches of wild daffodils and fruit windfalls gathered by kids for a bit of pocket money. But primarily they signal a property where people are in the business of small scale agriculture of some kind. For an increasing number, it represents the family’s primary source of income as well as a determination and passion to succeed as a producer and grower within a sustainable agriculture model.Regenerative farming is alive and well in our ‘hood.

‘Good Food’ means so many different things to different people.Nowadays, with the emphasis on health and our natural immunity that 2020 has brought with it, many are increasingly cautious about the source of their food. It’s a real pleasure to see, and it might just be one of the silver linings and a lasting legacy of this difficult time. There’s a laudable desire to reconnect with the source of one’s food and importantly to be involved in the conversation about good nutrition and health for ourselves and our families.

Alla Bruce uai
Alla Wolf-Tasker, Lake House & Bruce Burton, Milking Yard Farm

Our ethos at Lake House has always been to ask “where”, “what”, “who” and “how” about the produce we source, and to share these answers with our guests. We now also have the added bonus of our own farm, just down the road. Dairy Flat Farm supplies much of our produce and bakes bread for all our operations. Apart from the opportunity to stay there, guests are regularly offered tours and workshops at the property. It’s gratifying to see interest in this kind of activity on the rise.

Using or buying local offers the likelihood of knowing more about your food. If you are eating out, certainly many of our restaurants and cafés here, quote the source of their produce. If you are staying in self-contained accommodation – head to the local farmers’ markets (there’s at least one somewhere in the region every weekend), buy up the beautiful fresh produce and take the opportunity even to have a chat with the grower or their family. The small community-based food market at the old Daylesford Railway Station (every Sunday) is a good case in point. There, (at the very least) you’ll find Adsum Farmhouse; Mt Franklin Organics, Goldfields Cheeses, Two Fold Bake House, Brooklands free range farm (pastured British White beef and Black Berkshire pork), as well as fresh produce, bread and pastries from our own Dairy Flat Farm.

Take it all back with you, for a feast at your accommodation, with a great bottle of local wine or cider. Perhaps from Captain’s Creek Organics (much more than just wine) or Passing Clouds (catch the tourist train at the Sunday market for a short but enchanting ride there) or Daylesford Cider. The latter produces some brilliant drops from their orchard of 1800 Organic Somerset cider apple trees – now that’s dedication. And if you’ve ventured in that direction anyway, be sure to stop at Istra for some European small goods – prosciutto, pancetta, salamis, capocollo and more. They’ll be brilliant with the beautiful sourdough and Ed’s Adsum gherkins you’ve picked up from the market. Be sure to look out for the Honest Egg Co’s beautiful eggs from local pastured happy hens and fresh pasta from the same company. We have both available in our little produce store and café, Wombat Hill House in Daylesford’s Botanical Gardens. Well worth a ramble up there.

If all that’s just served to whet your appetite, it needs to be said that it also only scratches the surface of our local food story. The village main street offers more great possibilities in the shape of pork pies, terrines and local bullboar sausages at the Daylesford Meat Co. Diagonally across on the corner, is the freshly minted Winespeake – a great deli and cellar are specialising in minimum intervention small production wines.

Morningswood Farm, near Eganstown, supply magnificent strawberries and other berries to Lake House and are opening their farm as a ‘pick your own’ facility this summer. Venture down Jubilee Lake Road and pick up some O’Toole Honey. Messmate, the local variety, is in abundance when those beautiful stately trees bloom in our forests. And we’re still only scratching the surface…

When your visit to this beautiful place we live in is done, fill your esky with more of this local good stuff and take it home with you. Have some friends over, cook a great meal, share the bounty and think about the dedication and hard work of the wonderful producers and provedores of our region. Remember the smiling faces of the food community you have met. Remember our springs, forests, our undulating landscapes, our far horizons and our clear, inky black star-filled skies. And come back soon to explore our ever-evolving food story. There’s lots more to experience.

About the author

Alla Wolf Tasker
Alla Wolf-Tasker AM, Lake House
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Alla Wolf-Tasker AM’s story is the stuff of legend. With over 30 years in the region, she has transformed a downtrodden country plot of land into a thriving culinary restaurant, and consequently a food-producing community. Lake House is recognised around the world as one of this country’s great restaurants, and it continues to win numerous accolades within Australia and overseas.