A Lifestyle Change with a Difference
Eighteen years ago, and at the age of 55, my husband Gavan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). At the time he was the owner and Director of a large civil engineering company in Canberra. I was a counselor, advocate and lobbyist, representing and speaking out on behalf of people with an intellectual disability in the ACT.
Two days after Gavan’s PD diagnosis, he awoke in the morning and stated: – “I’ve always wanted a farm, and that’s what I want to do with my life now!” I was shocked, as we have never been involved with farming, and the thought of moving to a farm with snakes and other vermin was most challenging.
Well, I pulled myself together, we bought the farm three months later, just 10 kilometres from the CBD, the Canberra airport and the Parliamentary Triangle, and an adventure began which was not only a complete lifestyle change, but a wonderful journey of personal discovery for us both. Our friends compared us to the TV series Greenacres, from the 60’s, except it’s a role reversal, with me as the farmer.
In 2004, Gavan experienced serious health issues, and his civil engineering business needed to be sold. I realized quickly that Gavan and I needed a hobby which we could both share in.
During this quest, I stumbled across the intriguing world of truffle growing, and with great enthusiasm I organised a day trip for Gavan and I to Tasmania to trudge through the oak and hazelnut trees in the middle of winter, while following the sniffer dogs, as they foraged for the elusive truffle – “We were on our first truffle hunt”.
Following the truffle hunt experience, we arrived back in Canberra focused on the job at hand, which was to transform part of our own farm into an intriguing world of truffle growing. We planted out 9 hectares, which translates into 2,500 inoculated oak and hazelnut trees.
In 2007, the first truffle to be found in Canberra was unearthed on our property. This suggests the Canberra region, and the Majura Valley where this farm is located, is very suitable for growing truffles.
Truffles grow under the ground, anything up to 350 mm deep, and can only be detected by using a highly trained sniffer dog. I began a training program with “Snuffle”, my American Cocker Spaniel when she was a 9 week old puppy, and she quickly developed into a great little truffle sniffing dog, finding her first truffle unassisted at 14 weeks. The largest truffle she has found in the trufferie is 498 grams, which is very exciting when the average size for a truffle is around 50 grams.
The Canberra region is certainly shaping up to be very suitable for truffle growing, and I have been very proud to have been able to establish and develop the truffle industry in Canberra.
With family always my first priority, and my need to spend more time with my husband Gavan, I have come to another milestone in my life, the farm, French Black Truffles of Canberra, has been sold.
I would like to, on behalf of Gavan and I, thank all those wonderful people we have met along the truffle journey. The local community which has supported the truffle farm since the gates first opened, the Visit Canberra team who have shown great interest in the farms development into a significant tourism destination, all the wonderful, creative chefs I have met through restaurants I have supplied, the Fyshwick Markets, our neighbours Mt Majura Vineyard, our sponsor The Kitchen Company, and the tourists who travel distance each winter to enjoy a truffle experience.
For all inquiries and bookings in the future, please look up Canberra Truffles on the website.
We wish them well for the future ahead, and hope they enjoy, as we have, the wonderful and mysterious world of truffles.
Watch our interview with ABC Landline.