Paddock to plate farm experience

Jenni Ivins creating her mind drawing at Caldermeade Farm. 269160_06 Photos: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Jenni Ivins*

Let me tell you about my day on the farm – Caldermeade Farm, in the South East corner of Cardinia Shire.

As an artist in residence, I was hosted in style by John, Di, Helen and many more, each playing an important part in caring for the animals and farm, providing fresh, inviting foods and wonderful experiences for their guests.

What an exciting time to visit Caldermeade Farm! The farm is coming out of lockdown with many new projects for the community to enjoy.

One of the most exciting projects will be opening soon behind a giant viewing window in the café and shop.

It is the factory area where visitors can watch the final stage of the journey from paddock to plate.

When I asked owner, John Gormans, the most important focus for an article about what is happening at Caldermeade Farm, he said, “Provenance.”

Provenance is the term used to describe the authenticity of a product and it is central to what they are doing at Caldermeade Farm.

Visitors can take a tractor ride out to the paddock and see jersey cows up close. You can get down to play with calves in the shed, if you want to – after protecting your shoes with the provided booties.

They are expecting up 70 new calves! Taking care of them will be a full-time job.

Tractor tours include the modern dairy. Our guide, Helen, showed us the equipment, explaining the processes and answering our questions. She pointed to the viewing room above the dairy, which provides a prime position to watch the milking.

She told us it takes a couple of hours to milk all 350 cows in the herd, so we would have plenty of time to enjoy a delicious lunch first, if we preferred, or to let children play in the playground, feed the goats or pose for photos – perhaps on one of the old tractors or under the Big Cow statue.

“Here come the cows!” called someone from our tour. They were not being herded!

“The cows know when it’s time,” said Helen. “When the paddock gate is opened, they walk up the laneway, into the milking yard and up onto the platform ready for milking.”

They eat some feed while the milk is pumped into the stainless-steel vat, where it is quickly cooled to four degrees.

The milk will flow into the factory area, once it is open, and people will be able to see the final part of the provenance journey in which the milk is made into products that they can enjoy in the café and restaurant.

The restaurant menu is comprised of food that originates from the farm as much as possible, but it also includes other dishes, such as fish, to cater for more people.

Foods that are not farm factory or café made are sourced from other local businesses.

“We use use our own beef, goat, milk and cream,” said John, “basically what you get from the animal. We do our own ice cream as well; that’s all ours.”

They have interesting names, too, such as Bulls-N-berry and Cow-Lick-o-rich.

“Do you have a vegetable garden here, too?’ I asked.

“Only for people to raid!” he said. “It was actually built for that. Community. Just outside the kitchen area there are a couple of gardens and people are encouraged to dig in there and try some strawberries or tomatoes or to pick some parsley.

“Many people don’t understand the flavour of a tree or vine ripened fruit,” said John, “and it makes a huge difference.”

Another exciting part of Caldermeade Farm is the fresh produce market, housed in the big barn and filled with local produce and products. The vegie box is really good value at $20.

The location is perfect for locals and also for people on their way to a holiday house or even on a day trip to the Island or the Prom. They stop in to get breakfast or dinner, then stock their pantry with fresh and tasty goods to enjoy.

You can even design your own hamper and fill it with your favourite foods and wine, as I’m going to take my husband to do for his birthday next week. To help you to choose, food tastings are available at both the Café and the Produce Market.

Caldermeade Farm is a day trip destination in itself, with events, both day and night, such as business, birthdays and weddings; live music ‘Tunes on the Farm’, and kids’ days, monthly craft markets (the next market will be 19 March).

Between 9am – 4pm weekdays and 9am – 5pm on weekends, you can see goats, calves, chooks, highland cattle and alpacas.

You can feed the animals in the nursery, take photos of your family on the tractors or other props. Children can enjoy the playground while the adults have a drink.

There is a professionally landscaped garden with a stream flowing through where, if I’d had a child with me, I might have played ‘Pooh Sticks’ from the low bridge.

But then again, perhaps that wouldn’t have been the best idea, as the streams gently babbles between the boulders and into the dam, where ducks and geese like to hang out – sometimes swimming in formation as they did when I was there.

This was the last stop as artist in residence in the Art of Business and Community project in Council’s first What’s On Cardinia Festival.

All the drawings can now be seen at the Cardinia Cultural Centre, in the diverse exhibition of work created by festival artists. Prints of the mind drawings will be available from

*Jenni Ivins is the artist behind ’The Art of Business and Community’, an art project that combines business and community for the 2022 What’s On Cardinia Festival.