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Farmers diversifying income by adding holiday accommodation to properties

Aug 09, 2023Aug 09, 2023

While many Australians flock to the coast for summer, it is not the only holiday option.

A growing number of farms in rural areas are branching out into accommodation — and it can be just as inviting as a stay by the beach.

In northern Victoria, Gary and Isabel Chasney have just installed an off-grid tiny house on their olive and lavender farm.

"We're super happy with the way it's come out and it's just a nice, relaxing place to stay," Mr Chasney said

While it might be small, the accommodation is packed with features, including floor-to-ceiling windows to view the olive grove, a kitchen, a bathroom, air conditioning and heating.

And for those who want to make the most of their farm stay environment, there's also a barbecue fire pit and armchairs.

The tiny house accommodates two people, but the Chasneys have a second one coming that will sleep four.

At the moment, the couple travels from Swan Hill to Melbourne every weekend for farmers' markets.

It's a two-day trip and 400 kilometres each way.

"We're hoping that by having the farm shop … the tiny houses and all the things are going to go on at the farm that people come to us, so we don't have to do so much travelling," Mrs Chasney said.

The couple are aiming to share activities at the farm year-round, with the lavender harvest running in spring and summer, and the olive harvest from April to August.

As the cost of living soars and holiday accommodation in popular coastal spots gets harder to find over summer, travellers are ditching Queensland beaches for bush holidays.

"We get asked many times in Melbourne how [the olives products are] actually made, what's the process, and people are genuinely interested to come and learn where their food is coming from," Mr Chasney said.

The couple plans to run workshops on the farm and provide demonstrations of how olive oil and table olives are made, and the distillation process for lavender essential oil.

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented people from travelling, Mrs Chasney said the possibility of future lockdowns was something they took into consideration before embarking on their farm stay journey.

"COVID also affected us with markets [not being able to run], so I think we just have to all be positive and not let it stop us doing what we want to do and prevent us from trying to make a future," she said.

In North East Victoria, if you look at the top of the hills in Myrrhee, you might see a Mongolian yurt looking over the King Valley.

Sharon and John Jarrott put their first yurt on their 345 hectare farm in 2013 and said it was a successful value-add.

"We have three yurts now," Mrs Jarrott said.

"It all came about when I wanted to build something on the top [of the property] because we've got really nice views, and girlfriend of mine suggested a yurt.

"I didn't even know what a yurt was — next thing you know, both 60-plus-year-old ladies were in Mongolia bringing back a shipping container of yurts."

The couple have been renting out yurts to holiday makers for a decade.

Mrs Jarrott said the demand was solid.

"People like the idea that everything is there, they get the feel of camping but don't have to pack any stuff," she said.

"I get people from all over the place – the city, the country and overseas.

"You get the feeling of isolation, but you're still a short drive away from wineries."

The Jarrott's yurt are round tents, with walls lined with pure felt and two layers of canvas.

There is also a glass dome in the roof for star gazing and an outdoor bath.

Mrs Jarrott admits the last decade has not always been smooth sailing, after facing lengthy delays with the local council.

"For people wanting to do it, the council can often not be very supportive of people wanting to do things a bit different," she said.

"Initially we were told we didn't need a permit for the yurts, and then three years in, it all changed and we needed one.

"It took us three years to get the permit, before we could get up and going again."

Right now, the yurts are in high demand with bookings for almost every day during summer.

Mrs Jarrott said she would continue to run the business for as long as she could.

"I'm 72 now, so it's more than enough for me," she said.

"While I'm in good health, I'll keep doing it because I like meeting people, I like doing it and the business really suits me."