You know a place is pretty special when a lamb runs out to greet you as you step out of your car.
A lamb followed by a warm smile and a friendly hug usually given by long-lost friends.
Anna, Andrew and their three children welcomed us onto Honeycomb Valley Farm to learn more about how they have moved from urban mayhem to a rural sustainability.
They have created what so many people dream about; simple, clean living focused on contribution and building a better future for their children.
The tree change
Anna and Andrew understand too well how easy it is to get lost in that all-consuming city life. They lived it for many years. They realized the rat race was training them to be more consumers rather than living from a place that benefits society. They were concerned about the impact this would have on their children’s ability to be resilient to the challenges of life and work to find solutions to them.
The farm change was made mostly for their children, but a decision Anna happily admits was also made because she and Andrew wanted more fun in their lives.
Isn’t that why we are all travelling, to have fun but to also reduce our own levels of consumption?
Honeycomb Valley Farm, Nabiac
Honeycomb Valley Farm in Nabiac is a special place. We only heard of it thanks to Legendary Pacific Coast Drive and as we made our way through north, through the Manning Valley after our visit, we did not stop hearing about it.
Every person we spoke to asked if we had stopped at Honeycomb speaking so highly of Anna and her family in the next breath.
“So much energy… so vibrant… dong so many amazing things….”
Honeycomb is just off the Pacific Highway, so it wouldn’t even be considered a detour on your way up and down the Pacific Coast of NSW.
Take the turn and discover the sustainable way of living Anna and Andrew have created. One visit to the farm and you’ll see just how easy it looks and how much fun it really is.
The Honeycomb vision
As you can probably tell, bees are the focal point of the farm. Anna has spent 18 months working with one of Australia’s biggest bee experts to learn all she can about their habitats and the valuable contribution bees make to the earth’s ecosystem.
She intends her farm to be a place where people can learn how we can implement simple things in our own life, no matter where we live, to become productive members of our global community: givers rather than consistent takers.
Their motto is Little farm big picture and are working to demonstrate that, just like the honeycomb, we are not separate from the global community, we are part of it and the honeycomb can only thrive when we all work towards keeping the bigger picture healthy.
Anna takes the concept of the bigger honeycomb picture and applies to parenting practices in her recently published book, Honeycomb Kids. It’s all about raising children who are resilient and capable of problem solving and working towards making the global community better.
Anna’s biggest concern is we are raising children who are becoming so dependent on supermarkets and chemicals, and rote education. They aren’t learning how to deal with challenges and ultimately survive. She knew a tree change to the Manning Valley would help her children learn how to do these things, essentially becoming producers and contributing to the honeycomb.
The disappearing bees
There is a major problem on our planet at the moment (yes another one) that most people aren’t aware of. It is the disappearance of our bees. It might not seem a big issue, but if you stop and think about the work that bees do (pollinating flowers) the impact of their disappearance will hit you like a ton of bricks (oh crap no plants = no food)
Anna has set up hives and educational displays on her farm of Australian native bees. It turns out we have a variety of native bee species in Australia- many of them stingless and immune to the issue that is causing the global disappearance of bees.
It is possible for every person to cultivate their own bees in their backyard. You only need a couple; they can pollinate the flowers and produce honey for you each year. There is a variety that will produce two jars of honey a year- supreme honey. Imagine if each person were to do something so simple.
Healing benefits of honey
Because you know honey has incredible health benefits via food and healing. Have a cut? Whack some honey on it and it will heal your wound. Want to wash your hair? Put honey on it, Anna says it works a treat.
“Why would you put something on your skin that you cannot eat? Our skin is our largest organ; anything that goes on it is absorbed into our blood stream just like it would if you ate it.”
Anna has created her own honey creams and lotions that can be purchased at her farm store, at the local weekend markets or online.
Christine from Artisan’s on the Hill told me later that evening that Anna’s honey cream is the only thing that clears her eczema- she’s used cortisone creams and all sorts of lotions and potions for years and none of it works like Anna’s all-natural remedy.
You can also taste her teas and honey sauces at the farm store when you visit with views of the 90 acre farm stretched before you. The farm store is in a 40ft shipping container which is another example of the Campbell’s sustainable living. They make a pretty perfect shelter.
Meeting the Honeycomb Valley Farm animals
Anna wants people to come to the farm and have personal contact with the animals that produce the products that help improve our lives. You can meet the goat’s that produce the goat’s milk soap, the bees that make the honey, the hens that lay the eggs and the alpacas that provide the wool.
The alpacas also do a very good job of keeping the foxes away from the lambs and sheep. You get a sense on the farm that every animal and plant has a particular role to fill, but all work together to produce that ecosystem- the thriving honeycomb-without over-consumption or harm to any other living thing.
Kalyra had a ball donning gum boots and slushing around in the mud meeting alpacas, patting horses, watching the hens run around their funky coloured caravan homes (yet another example of recycling for sustainable living) and meeting the cutest cows in the world.
“I chose the cutest ones so no one would eat them” Anna says. Anna is vegetarian and none of the animals on the farm are used for their meat.
The world’s largest solar oven
When you first walk into the farm you will see a giant stainless steel contraption pointing up to the sun, similar in look to a satellite dish. It’s not receiving and satellite submissions to bring images to our TV screens, but it is receiving pure solar energy to cook our food.
Anna has one of the world’s largest solar ovens which she uses to cater to large groups of people. The Villager Sun Oven is transported on a trailer and can cook 30 loaves of bread an hour, hundreds and hundreds of cookies, quiches and pizzas.We even tried a sun-baked ginger bread cookie and it was delicious.
It was fascinating to hear how it worked. You just pointed it to the sun and it would reach its max heat of 230 degrees. If you wanted it cooler you just bump it with your hip away from the sun and down the temp goes. It’s a design that was originally made for charity to help those in poorer countries struggling for fuel to cook their food.
The Honeycomb Valley gardens
We loved walking through the garden at the entrance to the farm. Although the plants weren’t there yet, we could easily envision how it would look when completed for opening in the first week of September.
The garden is like a living museum of how we use and need plants in our life. You begin with teas, one of my favourites, moving through to plant dyes, native edibles and products made from plants. Anna will have these growing out of toilets and bath tubs to make the lessons even more meaningful.
We stopped for a snack of a native edible flower. It’s crunchy, slightly nutty flavour was also full of water and I felt refreshed after it with a slight burst of raw energy- so much better than a packet of chips and straight from the garden.
Honeycomb Valley farmstay
The Campbells have also opened their farm up to farm stay visitors. Travellers can stay on the property and become involved in the life of the farm by animal feeding, goat milking, a hand-led pony ride, bottle-feeding baby lambs, feeding the chooks and collecting eggs, grooming alpacas, fixing fences, spinning honey, gardening and plenty more. You can sit and do nothing but lounge around as well but that does not quite fit in with the Honeycomb way of living!
Anna and Andrew also participate in WWoofing programs and often have travellers staying and working on the farm. What a great Australian working holiday experience.
I was expecting to visit the farm, see a few animals, smell some fresh air and admire the views. I got all that, but I also walked away thinking more about how I am being an over-consumer and under-producer and how I need to make simple changes in my life.
I became vegetarian six years ago because I wanted to do my bit to reduce the environmental impact of farming. I’m proud of that decision and because of my visit to Honeycomb I intend to do more and teach my children to do more.
We all need to learn how to be resilient and how to use the earth that provides us with all we need for a sustainable and healthy future.
Honeycomb Valley Farm the Facts
Where: Wallanbah Rd Nabiac, (about 3.5 hours from Sydney)
When: Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, Tue (closed Wed &Thu) Hours: 8.30am – 2.30pm Open every day in school holidays
Cost: : $10 child, $12.50 conc, $15 adult (Family $45 for 2a + 2c)
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