SAMARIA FARM’S ROSY FUTURE
From the squeaky-clean beaches of Esperance in Western Australia, Vicki and Allan Wight have made a semi-retirement tree change to the striking rolling hills and valleys of Samaria to enter the world of essential oil production.
Vicki and Allan Wight have made a semi- retirement tree change to the valleys of Samaria to enter the world of essential oil production.
AS you drive up to Samaria Farm you are immediately drawn to the picturesque views that surround the 22 acres of rose bushes, orchards, olive grove, stock yards, vegetable gardens and the menagerie of farm animals that blend into the inviting landscape.
Owners Vicki and Allan Wight have spent the past six years making a decision (and plenty of improvements) as to which part of their unintentional business they’ll focus on and they have plenty to choose from, matched by their natural tenacity.
The Wights spent a good chunk of their lives living in Esperance in Western Australia where they eventually stopped and put down roots after two years touring around Australia in a caravan with their three young children.
They spent a decade developing their “little tea rooms” on the beach from 25 seats into 250 seats, but decided it was time to return to their home state of Victoria to be near Allan’s ageing parents, and near Vicki’s family who mostly reside in North East Victoria.
Samaria Farm, near Swanpool, was on the market for many years before the Wights discovered it and decided it would be an interesting and exciting project to take on in semi-retirement.
“The local real estate agent told the owners at the time to bulldoze all the roses because then people would buy it as it was just too much work with the thousands of roses that surround the property,” explained Vicki. “The owners before us planted roses using permaculture principles. “They grafted all the roses and they researched everything and they were making creams to sell at local markets. “We didn’t actually buy this place to run it as a business. “I was working in town and I thought I would work a couple of days a week and potter around here and the family could come and stay. “I hadn’t even pruned a rose bush before I got here.” An engineer by trade, Allan knew the area well as his first job was working as a mechanical engineer on the Nillahcootie Dam so he was keen to purchase a property in the region. “It just felt lovely when I first saw it,” he said. “It was very overgrown as it hadn’t been pruned for a couple of years and the owners were spending their time at markets selling the rosewater they distilled themselves from the roses. “When we bought the place they actually showed us how to do it.” The couple thought they would keep distilling the roses while spending the first two years clearing the property, weeding, painting the house, putting in floors and generally tidying up the acreage where they discovered overgrown pens and more rose gardens.
The original structure of the homestead that was built in the 1880s has been kept including the old generator shed and single man’s quarters which are still in use today, but are now used for other purposes such as storing feed.
“The first couple of years we had no intentions of doing it as a business and we did the distilling ourselves just to try it,” Vicki said.
“Then people started asking if they could come and have a look.
“The local garden club then came and I thought they could just go for a walk but when they got here they were like, ‘Well come on Vicki, give us a tour’.
“So then we decided we would start doing the markets to sell the rosewater and rose oil.
“I did all the accreditation for organic farming and did all the courses so we went to Albury Farmers Market and Mansfield, but then it was taking us away from the property too much and you don’t really make money from the markets selling essential oils.”
Local interest in the roses themselves and the distilling grew, alongside other produce Vicki started to make, sourced from the property.
Rose oil and rose water is now sold at a little store at the front of the homestead alongside lemon myrtle oil, bitter orange oil, grapefruit oil, olive oil, jams, cordials, handmade gifts and other locally sourced produce.
Samaria Farm is the only producer of pure rose oil in Australia, with other oil you see out in the market place imported from countries such as Bulgaria, Iran and India.
The success and interest in the rose oil and other essential oils has helped the Wights decide that their main focus now lies in the production of essential oils and hydrosols. “Now we have decided that this will be our main focus,” Vicki said. “Growing roses is like wine grapes in that where you grow it will depend on its different qualities.
“We have had all ours tested just recently at the Southern Cross University in Lismore and it is of a really high quality.
“We have only just now started to think, ‘Ok we need to market it properly and package it really well’, as it’s currently only in plastic bottles.
“It really was only six months ago we thought, what are we? Let’s single it down which is when we became an essential oil and hydrosol farm.”
The making of the oil and water takes place in November when about 20kg of rosebuds are picked early in the morning before it gets warm and distilled for about three to four hours in a stainless steel distil that has been re-engineered by Allan to work at optimum efficiency.
In a season, only 70ml of rose oil is produced or only 3ml in one batch. When the couple aren’t attending to the roses or the 400 olive trees or the citrus orchard, they run a working farm that is home to many chooks, a flock of harlequin sheep, ducks and turkeys all of which have been lovingly named.
Having recently extended the homestead’s balcony into a café, Vicki spends her weekends cooking all day breakfasts, light lunches, morning and afternoon teas for visitors to the farm whether they have come for a farm tour or stayed in their B&B style, self-contained cabin or the delightful old caravan that has been decked in and sits tranquilly among one of the rose gardens.
“The café is just a nice thing to have for people to come and learn about us,” Vicki said.
“They can come and wander through the farm and then sit down in the café and have some homemade lemon butter cake, homemade scones, jam and cream and Turkish delight made with pure rose water of course.
“Everything is seasonal, homemade and sourced locally if we haven’t produced it here.”
One thing the couple are sure of is they do not want the business to get any bigger as Vicki said “it defeats the purpose of this lifestyle we have chosen”.
“We really are enjoying it and we enjoy having the time to talk to people when they come. “Making it too big takes away from the feel of the place.” Samaria Farm really is a place that is a special experience for the entire soul, body and mind.
“Growing roses is like wine grapes in that where you grow it will depend on its different qualities.” -Vickiwight
NEW ADVENTURE / Vicki and Allan Wight have spent the past six years pruning and weeding their extensive acreage of rose gardens alongside learning to distil rose petals.