THE HEATHCOTE REGION
The thing that sets the Heathcote region apart is that the person you meet at most of its wineries and shopfronts is likely to be the owner.
Life is too short to die wondering, according to Lyndal Buth, one half of the team behind Heathcote Harvest, the remarkably successful providore-cum-cafe she runs with her husband, Steve, in central Victoria’s Heathcote district. Heathcote Harvest is a weekends-only business, serving lunches, tastings and teas from Friday to Sunday and public holiday Mondays and dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings. It’s a full-on paddock to plate enterprise, located slap bang in the middle of their pig farm. The pigs are possibly among the more pampered pets on the planet. “All our animals have a good life,” Steve says. “We let them grow up and have fun with mud wallows and plenty of space and shelter. They only have one bad day, then they end up on the plate.” Hardly surprisingly, pork features heavily on the menu, with a legendary schnitzel in house-made sourdough breadcrumbs a signature dish, and a tasting platter of cured meats, sausages, olives, pickles and cheeses a popular lunchtime option.
The Buths ran a real estate agency on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast before they moved back to Steve’s home state to realise their long held dream of “having a crack at living more sustainably”, farming pigs and growing as much of their own food as possible. “We have a bit of a tradition of not looking too hard before we leap,” Lyndal confesses. “We had a great business in Queensland, but we’re both passionate about food and there was this niggling feeling that perhaps we should be doing something along those lines. So we sold up and moved down here in 2012.”
What followed was an intense period of establishing free-range accommodation for their breeding herd of seven Berkshire sows and Boris the boar as well as an orchard, vegie patch and chicken coop. After two years of constant hard yakka they decided to invite friends and neighbours over for a breakfast to celebrate their conversion to the simple life. “Pretty much everything on the table, from ham, sausages and bacon to eggs, tomatoes and creamed spinach was ours,” Lyndal says. “The response was so enthusiastic we were encouraged to open as a business.”
They may be impetuous, but they’re far from stupid, so when they decided to open the cafe in the farm shed, they opted to go the whole hog and installed a commercial kitchen. These days, with Steve at the stoves and Lyndal front of house, Heathcote Harvest is well on the way to becoming a legend in its own lunchtime. They also open for special seafood and set-menu dinners on weekend nights. These events are usually sell-outs, but Lyndal says they are not tempted to expand either the size of their premises, or their staff. “We want to retain that homey, family feel,” she says. “This is our lifestyle, so it’s got to be fun for us as well.”
The complete article was published in Australian Country issue 19.7. For more interesting stories, subscribe to our magazine here.
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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass