The first stop after the Agrarian Kitchen was a cherry farmer with a sign on his mailbox advertising $5/kilo cherries. We pulled in as you do when you see $5/kilo cherries and grabbed a bag. In Tasmania you can’t get more than a couple of kilometers outside of town without seeing a sign post for eggs, cherries, apricots, tomatoes and most often: poop. I can only assume that goat poop, chicken poop and sheep poop is like miracle grow because it costs just as much as the cherries. But I digress… this isn’t a blog about poop.
Carlos and I devoured our cherries as we drove from Lachlan back to Hobart, giddy with excitement. While in some ways I consider the entire state of Tasmania to be my Agrarian Kitchen given the accessibility of incredible produce, the real deal is Rodney Dunn and his wife Severine who founded a farm-based cooking school in 2007 called the Agrarian Kitchen. Rodney has taken cooking classes to a new level by growing everything you can imagine including Berkshire and Wessex pigs, goats and chickens and guiding his guests from his farm to his table.
We were fortunate to have a tour of the farm and were blown away by the variety of produce and Rodney’s overflowing enthusiasm for food. In addition to growing seven types of garlic, five tomato varieties, corn, onions, melon, beans and an assortment of berries (have you ever tasted a fresh currant? incredible!) Rodney built a smoke house for his piggies, ducks and pheasants. He doesn’t have sheep but his neighbors do. He can barter his own honey for cow’s milk. It’s the most self-sustaining farm I have ever seen. As a trained chef, Rodney is fully adept at leading the culinary classes but he knows his limits and has found experts in the fields of butchery, bread baking and patisserie to partner up with. It’s a genius model and I can see how the classes consistently sell out.
With help from the sweet cherries and Rodney’s energy, I felt high when Carlos and I drove back to Hobart. Rodney’s enthusiasm was contagious and inspiring in ways I wasn’t fully prepared for. While I am definitely considering how I can get back to the Agrarian Kitchen during our sojourn in Tassie, my take-away sentiment was not necessary that I need to go back to the States to replicate his business. Rodney and Severine risked it all when they left prosperous careers in Sydney to follow their dream. It’s obvious that they have been successful because of a genuine passion for good food, an awareness to continue educating themselves on best practices and by surrounding themselves with complementary partners. But I think the magic ingredient is risk. As my dad says, “great love and great happiness involve great risk.” It is those moments like the drive home from the Agrarian Kitchen when I am full of hope and ambition that I want to be reminded of once we return to the States and I confront that elephant creeping into my room.