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Published October 22nd 2012
The dynamic fresh food tour with rich agricultural experiences
The Hawkesbury Harvest Farm Gate Trail is an experience-based agricultural tourism product that is designed to allow visitors to interact directly with the farmer or producer. When in season, you can pick your own fruit and even encounter an alpaca. You can wander through a vineyard and have a taste while you experience the beautiful countryside. The Hawkesbury Harvest's "taste, buy and learn" tour philosophy gives you a reinvigorating tasting experience before you load your shopping bags with fresh goodies right at Sydney's own backyard.
The tour encourages vistors to talk with farmers and learn something about agriculture
There are five farmers gate trails taking you in all directions from Sydney, most of them are within 75 minutes driving distance. The products range across food, flora, fauna, fibre and wine. For your comfort and enjoyment, many country farm stays can also be found if you wish to plan a longer visit in the region.
The original farm gate trail stretches its line at the Cool Climes Mountain area around the Kurrajong hills and up into Bilpin and beyond. The area is famous for its apple and peach produce, known as Sydney's Apple Hub for the Sydney-siders. There are numerous fruit orchards along the Bell Lines Road. The most well established fruit orchard in this region is the Bilpin Fruit Bowl. It is the leading supplier of premier quality apples and peaches to Sydney region. It offers a "Pick-Your-Own" policy for apples and peaches to the keen visitors.
On this part of the trail, you can also pick your own walnuts and chestnuts at the Kookootonga Walnut and Chestnut Farm at Mt Irvin. The beautiful scenic farm welcomes its harvest time from mid March till late April and open their doors for all the nut lovers to get their fresh produce with first hand experience.
For the garden lovers, when you make your trip down there, don't miss the magic part of the Blue Mountains, the Mt.Tomah Botanic Garden, home to a world class collection of unusual cool clime plants in the southern hemisphere. You will be enchanted and inspired by all of nature's wonder works.
The Sydney Hills to Brooklyn Harvest Experience
strawberries, oranges, roses and oysters are highlights on this trail
Sydney Hills district has carried on the tradition of farming, horticulture and orcharding from its ancestors, the Darug people. This trail is the home to the Harwkesbury Harvest Farmers and Fine Food Market Castle Hill. You can get your fresh seasonal food at the market on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month.
For the "pick-your-own" experience seekers, the Hills area offers an array of quality strawberries, oranges at Ford's Farm, Watkins Farm and Galston Strawberries at 359. You can even take a romantic stroll and smell the roses at Nati Bros Roses garden and find out how the make the garden the major suppliers to florists throughout NSW.
When you leave Galston Strawberries at 359, via the Galston Rd and follow the 83 HWY in the Mooney Mooney direction, you will come to Broken Bay Oysters, the best quality of oysters freshly harvested from the Hawkesbury River. So don't forget to spoil your taste buds with some plump, succulent and juicy oysters for lunch.
The Penrith Valley Harvest Experience
The only farm gate trail that is not affected much by the season
This farm gate trail is one of the only trails that is not really affected by the seasons as most of the fresh produce is for all seasons. It is the host suburb of the second Hawkesbury Harvest Farmers and Fine Food Market held on the 1st Saturday of each month. The trail offers a diversity of unique agricultural experiences that will make you want to come back for more.
The Blue Mountain Honey Shed will offer you the sweet experience with its natural and gourmet honey of premier quality. You can also find some beeswax candles and natural skin care products at the shed, which is open seven days a week. Another place for a sweet experience is the Zokoko Chocolate Factory, where you can taste the pure origin chocolate bars made with traditional artisan methods.
Want a truly exotic tasting experience? Welcome to the Go-Shu Australian Sake and Visitors Centre, Australia's first and only sake brewery. You can indulge yourself with some fine quality pure rice wine while enjoying its nutritious health benefits. It also offers designer sake wares and natural Nuka skincare products. A stop you can't miss out in the Penrith Valley.
Want some truly local tasting experiences? The Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural Centre will give you a real bush tucker tasting experiences. I had a chance also to learn how to throw a boomerang with an experienced guide when we visited the centre after we attended the aboriginal cultural talks. Sunday is the only day that requires an appointment to visit.
To wrap up your visit with some fresh goodies, you can go to Llandilo Farm Fresh Eggs to get some free range eggs that are collected and packed daily from the farm. The farm opens from Monday to Saturday.
This part of the farm trail takes you to the green and hilly part of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River headwaters. It is perfect for your Christmas gift shopping. You can buy your homemade olive products at the Ambrosia Olive Farm, and then drive down to get your Christmas tree at Top Forty Orchard. And then continue down to Lavinia, an organic farm specialising in handmade natural soap and essential oils.
If you have kids on board with you, a surprise stop at the Langdale Farm to let them cuddle a pet sheep or an alpaca will make the journey less stressful,you can also take them to the Belgenny Farm to learn some thing about agriculture and history in NSW.
The South Coast Farm Gate trail will allow you to drive along the beautiful coastline of the Shoalhaven region and offers you a rich seafood experience together with its juicy berries of all kinds and also premier wine production.
On your journey to the South Coast, stop at the Kiama Fisheries to try the best fish and chips in town and pack some fresh catch of the day before heading home or go to Shoalhaven River Oysters for a fresh oyster feast.
To get some expert help regarding the local food producers and specialty retailers, you can join a Foodscape Tour. Your tour package will include transport, a local guide, food and wine tastings, a delicious lunch and a bag of samples from local producers. The tour departures from Berry and Gerringong via bookings on 1300 502 100.
Another stop you can't miss at the South Coast region is the Clyde River Berry Farm. This pick-your-own berry farm has over 30 years of producing the best blueberries in the region, together with other types of berries. You can also have a bite and taste the sweetest peach in the region, another reason to satisfy your fantasy in the berry paradise.
A fantastic family country driveaway Choice at the Hawkesbury Havest Farm Gate Trails
Please remember that most of the food is seasonal. I suggest you to check out the seasonal guide on the Hawkesbury Harvest website before planning your visit. Apart from the highlighted local producers in the article, there is still more to explore at your own pace. To visit any of the trails, all you have to do is visit the Hawkesbury Harvest website, order a free map online, and select a trail of your preference that has the most food in season. The free map will also provide you with their contact and booking details. Last, don't forget to clear some space in your car boot. I am sure you will load up with many fresh goodies to share with your family and friends, together with all the farmer's fun stories.
Was excited to read about Broken Bay Oysters. I contacted them and was told that Les Wadham (one of their members) is most likely to be there on the weekend and sells to the public. Suggest you call him before you go so it won't be a wasted trip. Les can be contacted on mobile no.0410410551
TCP Farmgate Tours is a member of Hawksbury Harvest and visits six farms across two of these areas. Tours leave Penrith every second Friday at 9.30 and visit the following producers, honey, olives, figs, eggs, butcher and vegetables.
Some orchards in this area offer Pick Your Own so if you dont have a car you can still go fruit picking. Call Nyla on 0424 188 779 to find out the next available dates.