Our final full day of touring began with a visit to the Newton Orchards operations in Manjimup, a family owned and operated business for more than 85 years! Chances are if you are an apple eating West Australian you would have enjoyed one of their apples before. This stop was interesting, educational and quite eye opening in terms of all the technology involved with sorting and preparing the apples for packaging. It was quite a sight to see thousands of apples happily bopping along to prevent bruising before being sorted into size and then packed.
I welcomed the honestly of our host Nicole Giblett at this stop as she outlined some of the struggles for apple producers in the current markets. It was a reminder that eating seasonally makes for the best flavours and serves to support our local farmers, who are working hard to ensure we get their fruit at its fresh best. We left with a BRAVO™ apple in hand, which I knew I would enjoy later.
Following this was a visit to the Donnelly River Village, which is a historic mill town that has been converted into a holiday village. They’ve actually set up one of the rooms of the old school on site into a bit of a museum so you can appreciate the history of the region too and learn more about the story of the mill and the surrounding area. There is also an abundance of friendly local animals, including kangaroos, emus and parrots. A visit to the general store on the way in for some pellets and bird seed meant that we were ready for the native wildlife and it was fantastic! I suspect some people overseas assume that all Aussies get to hang out with kangaroos all the time. Sadly, not the case, but they are such cuties and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a selfie with an obliging Skippy. Plus parrots totally want to be your friend! This was a really special part of the tour, very memorable.
Was it really already time for lunch? You bet it was and we headed to Fonty’s Pool, home of the much-adored annual event the Truffle Kerfuffle. This was seriously the most perfect place for a picnic lunch. Set up at one of the outdoor tables overlooking the pool we were treated to some delicious platters and enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the green grass in the sunshine, while we worked our way through this feast. It was lovely to have a picnic on the itinerary, was perfectly relaxing.
Our final stop of the afternoon was a visit to Advance Packing & Marketing Services, which is the home of the West N’ Fresh, Gotta Luv Em’ and Avolicious brands. Now when this processing facility was described in our itinerary as state of the art they were not joking. The technology they have employed is so impressive and their focus on streamlining processes is apparent.
Our tour guide was managing director Jenni Franceschi, recently announced as Telstra Business Woman of the Year for WA and she was excellent! Jenni has so much passion for what she does and is really focused on creating a sustainable industry. We were able to walk through the facility and better understand the packing process for the regions many, many avocados.
There is another part of these operations which focuses on using avocado seconds, along with other fruit and vegetables that would otherwise not be sold, to create usable products, such as baby food and a range of juices and smoothies. It was great to round out our visit here with the chance to try some of these delicious products. Definitely a big fan of the Truu Juice range!
A special part of the tour is the chance to ‘Shop Like A Local’. Your tour price actually includes $200 worth of vouchers that you can use at a range of participating stores around town. And it is just as fun as it sounds. You fancy a magazine; then head to the newsagent. Was there a local wine you really enjoyed; then call into Cellarbrations. Or if you want to take home some fresh produce, then a visit to Manjimup Meat Mart or The Cherry Box is the way to go! There are also some cafes, a beauty salon, florist, toy store and bakery so it is a great way to discover these local businesses and ensure you are heading home with a few special treats.
(And this was actually all the things I took home from the tour – some things from the markets, some from shopping like a local and a few other things I picked up…. the boot of the car was pretty full)
The final official stop of the tour was a sunset dinner and winery experience and we were off to Pemberley of Pemberton. This was definitely a standout stop on the tour. It is such a picturesque location and the chance to sit down and enjoy a delicious meal with owners, David and Monica, while they showcased their stunning wines made for a thoroughly special evening.
It’s hard not to be impressed when you are served up fresh marron that has been pulled from the dam that day, along with a seriously cracking chardonnay.
Everything about this place was perfect – the food, the wines and particularly the company. Loved it and I highly recommend that folks track down a bottle of their wine.
What a few days it had been. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. It was comprehensive, interesting and interactive. I thought it had a good balance of farm, food and nature experiences. Our tour guides, Anthony and Gemma did such an excellent job of running the tour and their local knowledge kept things interesting as they can answer any question about the region that you throw at them.
I think that this tour is a unique offering and a great way to explore the area, plus having the support of the farmers, producers and wider community makes it a memorable experience as all involved are keen to showcase the region and the Genuinely Southern Forests brand. It is such a wonderful few days away for those that share a similar passion for food and want that opportunity to be able to get a behind the scenes look at where their food comes from. So definitely worth considering if you are looking for a really special way to enjoy the beauty of the Southern Forests.
Details of how to book in for their December tour can be found here:
Please note: I was a guest of the Southern Forest Food Council for this tour. My opinions as always are my own.