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A new breed of avid food­ies are flock­ing to a south­ern Tas­ma­nian com­mu­nity once fa­mous for its farm­ing and ap­ple trees

WHERE DO YOU GO when you want to make a name for your­self in food? The an­swer is surely the Huon Val­ley. In fact, ever since food stylist Michelle Craw­ford made the move, her ca­reer has gone from strength to strength – thanks in part to the food world’s cur­rent ob­ses­sion with all things Huon. “Ap­ples, beef, stone fruits, berries, mush­rooms, sal­mon – there’s so many good things to eat here!” ex­claims Michelle, 48, who lives in Huonville with hus­band Leo, 49, daugh­ter Elsa, 14, son Hugo, 11, Patch the dog, Twiggy the cat and nine fat hens. The 15-strong brood re­lo­cated to the southerly tip of Tas­ma­nia from Syd­ney back in 2004, rent­ing un­til they found the ideal prop­erty. “Ini­tially we looked in the Chan­nel re­gion, which is a clus­ter of lit­tle vil­lages perched along a wind­ing road that hugs the coast­line south of Ho­bart,” Michelle says. “But I’m glad we ended up in the Huon – it’s home.” And they’re not the first trans­plants to be en­ticed by the rich pick­ings down south. “Ten years ago, the Huon Val­ley was a quiet agri­cul­tural town with bad cof­fee and nowhere nice to eat or shop,” she says. “But now it’s a vi­brant place full of great cafes, an awe­some choco­latier, sour­dough bak­ery and funky gift store.” In ret­ro­spect, the SBS se­ries Gourmet Farmer might have had some­thing to do with it. The books, shows and restau­rant it’s since spawned have made the Huon a sought-af­ter day­dream. “A lot of cre­ative peo­ple move here be­cause they can have a mod­est life­style and create in­cred­i­ble work,” Michelle adds. “There’s just so much po­ten­tial to do great things here.”


There are sev­eral public pri­mary and high schools in the Huon, plus it’s just over 30 min­utes from Ho­bart proper, mean­ing ev­ery­thing is at your fin­ger­tips. “The high num­ber of wire­less NBN tow­ers has al­lowed many peo­ple to re­lo­cate and work from home with busi­ness in­ter­state,” tells real es­tate agent Nick Bond, owner of Har­courts Huon Val­ley. Be­ing the very def­i­ni­tion of a tree change, rental de­mand is high. In fact, around one-third of res­i­dents are renters, with the rest own­ing or pay­ing off mort­gages.


You won’t find fast liv­ing in the Huon – this is the kind of place where peo­ple use ca­noes and bake their own bread. The me­dian age for the area is 40, but al­most 20 per cent of res­i­dents are un­der the age of 15 thanks to the in­flux of young fam­i­lies mak­ing the move. “For the past 20 years, 35 to 60 per cent of all sales have been to in­ter­state buy­ers,” Nick says. “Most are baby boomers re­tir­ing, but the se­condary mar­ket is cou­ples with young chil­dren want­ing a safe, quiet life for bring­ing up kids. Not many peo­ple leave once they come here ei­ther, so it’s grow­ing much faster than the rest of Tas­ma­nia. There aren’t many places that offer what the Huon of­fers.”


The Huon Val­ley sits in the south­ern­most tip of the Tas­ma­nian main­land, and is made up of the five main town­ships of Huonville, Franklin, Cygnet, Geeve­ston and Dover. It’s an easy drive south of Ho­bart. “You’re only 30 min­utes from a cap­i­tal city, 30 min­utes from the bush walks of the South West World Her­itage area and 30 min­utes from the beaches and coast,” Nick says. “It’s a coun­try life­style but close to ev­ery­thing,” he says. Chenoa Ge­orgi, owner of Nest Prop­erty, agrees. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity to en­joy the best of both worlds,” she says. “Cer­tainly those who are com­ing into the re­gion from built-up ar­eas are pleas­antly sur­prised at what their money will buy them.” Of course, re­newed in­ter­est in the area also means more tourists, which is great for re­viv­ing busi­ness. “The Huon Val­ley once pro­duced thou­sands of ki­los of ap­ples a year,” Michelle ex­plains. “At one time the val­ley was filled with or­chards – old timers talk about how all you could smell in the late spring was the scent of ap­ple blossom on the breeze – but with the cre­ation of the Com­mon Mar­ket in the 1960s, the ex­port in­dus­try col­lapsed and most of the or­chards were ripped out. Now, with the newly thriv­ing cider in­dus­try, they’re be­ing re­planted at a rate of knots and pro­duc­ers can’t keep up with de­mand. It’s an ex­cit­ing time to live here.”


In a nut­shell: an out­door lover’s de­light. “We love swim­ming in the Huon River in sum­mer and kayak­ing and fish­ing when it’s cooler,” Michelle says. And while this re­nais­sance means house prices are start­ing to rise, it’s still ex­cel­lent value. “The prices are higher than other places a sim­i­lar dis­tance from Ho­bart, but very af­ford­able com­pared to most ar­eas 30 to 50 min­utes from the cen­tre of a cap­i­tal city,” Nick says. If Michelle could give fu­ture res­i­dents any ad­vice it would be this: “Find a warm house, and get a year’s worth of dry wood sorted be­fore you move!” To that Chenoa adds, “Be pre­pared for your guest room to be fre­quently used… friends and fam­ily love to visit.” And while some busi­nesses shut down over win­ter, there’s still plenty of ac­tiv­ity to be had – such as the Mid-Win­ter Fes­ti­val, held each year in July. The fes­ti­val cel­e­brates the re­gion’s ap­ple pick­ing his­tory with plenty of food, cider, fire and the tra­di­tion of was­sail­ing – es­sen­tially, singing and danc­ing and bang­ing pots and pans to scare nas­ties from the or­chard and en­sure a bumper crop. Fes­ti­val go­ers are even en­cour­aged to dress up in feather, fur, leather and green­ery, with prizes for the best dressed.











(2) 1 Farm­ing re­mains a big money-earner for the area. 2 Quaint cot­tages abound in the Huon. 3 Lo­cals head to the river to swim, kayak and fish. 4 The dis­tant Sleep­ing Beauty moun­tain range.

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