Once again, Warragul’s Lardner Park hosted another celebration of Gippsland’s fine produce and small businesses with the launch of Harvest Fest 2018. Unlike the sprawling beast of the long-running Farm World event, the new festival, created by Lardner Park and the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo, instead focused on boutique farming, as well our envious regional lifestyle.
The growing popularity of hobby farming across our region provided the opportunity to create three days of family-friendly fun. Standing on its four pillars of ‘Grow, Make, Eat and Live’, Harvest Fest offered educational activities, a cooking lecture series, live demonstrations and entertainment, and lots of laughs for the kids — heck, there was even jousting with real-life knights in armour!
Arriving on the third day with the ‘rents and my teenage brother, the event was at its busiest with eager crowds venturing out to the lush green fields on a lazy, sunny Sunday to peruse stalls, munch on tasty local goods and speak to friendly, proud business owners. The vibrant energy was encapsulating.
Harvest Fest featured sustainable farming practices and tips on growing organic produce. Sustainability on our little family farm has always been something we’re pursuing, especially with an environmental engineering student in our household. As a hobby farmer, my old man was on a mission to learn seemingly everything in the Grow pillar. His attention was particularly focused on shelters by Local Shed Solutions, Soilcharge for sustainable fertilisation and the Industrial Hemp Association, along with seeing the latest tools and gadgets he could use on our property. The best part of the day was Mum scoring herself a greenhouse from Sproutwell Greenhouses for Christmas, so now we can finally plant tropical delights in Gippsland’s cooler climate.
Even the seemingly insatiable hunger of a thirteen-year-old was fulfilled thanks to the range of delectable foods available across the park. Saxxon devoured one of Clark’s Cyclone Taties, a whole Wheelie Good pizza, Wun Hung Lo Dumpling Co dim sum, and a Gippsland Jersey milkshake before calling it quits. Across the table we shared some rich, smoked BBQ meats from Smokehouse 720 and Nuts Bout Fruit fresh, natural ice cream — the Eat pillar was an obvious winner, even if our bellies couldn’t expand wide enough to sample all the deliciousness that was on offer.
With a Phillip Island Coffee Company brew in one hand and a jar of peanut butter in another, I also stocked up on the Grand Ridge Brewery’s classic Twisted Sister Cider for the balmy summer nights ahead of us. It was great to have a chat to stallholders who came from near and far across Gippsland to be part of Harvest Fest and showcase the cool stuff they’re doing and creating in our backyard.
While we didn’t have any youngsters rolling with us, we spotted kids playing with alpacas from the Animal Farmyard, staring with open-eyed bewilderment at the wildlife from Gumbuya World, as well as riding camels and cheering on the jousting demonstration.
Given the success of the inaugural Harvest Fest, I hope that the crowds will grow each year, as not only is it a fun day out, but the event provides inspiration for the little amateur farmer in all of us.