Beachfarm ~ Paradise In Australia
Hugh Gilliam of Doorways International Magazine interviews Catherine Taylor, owner of Beachfarm Tropical Fruit Orchard and Bed and Breakfast located in New South Wales, Australia.
Hello Catherine, it’s very nice to be able to talk to you about your little slice of paradise in Australia – Beachfarm AirBnb and tropical fruit orchard. In what quadrant of Australia does your farm reside? Is it near any large towns?
Beachfarm is situated half way down the east coast of Australia. It is a 1.5 hour drive south of the city of Brisbane and a one hour flight north of Sydney. We have the advantage of being located half way between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, which are two iconic tourist hotspots. We also have the added benefit of being five minutes from Kingscliff which is a coastal town known for its unspoiled, uncrowded beaches and cafe precinct.
What is the history of your property if any?
My mother and father purchased the property in 1972 and built the house in 1976. When we moved out to the farm, we had my mother’s parents and my father’s father also living on the property. The house was purpose built with a granny flat on either end for my grandparents and we lived in the two- story section in the middle. The house now has 2 Airbnb apartments and 2 private rooms available for guest use.
What type of fruits and vegetables do you grow? Are they mostly sold to local markets?
We sell our produce at 3 farmers’ markets a month all of them only 5 minutes from home. We grow sub-tropical fruits, avocados being our main crop, but also custard apples, papaya, citrus and some exotics like Black Sapote commonly known as Chocolate Pudding Fruit. We sell the bulk of our commercial crops to other farmer’s market stall holders who have stalls in the area and in Brisbane. Beachfarm has a market garden which produces chilies, broccoli, beetroot, lettuce and other seasonal vegetables which are sold at our stall at the local farmer’s market. Now that Tim has retired, he is interested in putting in more vegetables like tomatoes and snow peas. He is also an amateur beekeeper and we have about 20 hives for honey production and pollination purposes. We also sell our honey at the local markets.
How did you come to have a farm and how long have you been farming and hosting AirBnb patrons?
My mother was always very interested in hosting people on our farm. In 1991 she and I started a very small farmstay business and it grew to be very successful. We had a thriving school student niche. My mum pioneered something called ‘Farmhost’. When we reached capacity to host students on our farm, she involved the local farmers and convinced them to host Japanese students. My sister in law, who is Japanese, now runs this arm of the business. When my mum passed away, so much changed. We took a break from hosting to regroup. It took some time to figure out how to do it all without her and to really mold the business to our personalities and lifestyles. Tim was working full time and I was helping my dad out on the farm and running the farmer’s market stall. We also decided to do some major renovations before re-opening. We started hosting through Airbnb 2 years ago and have really enjoyed the experience.
Do you find farming a struggle? If so, what would be some of the major problems that occur?
Farming is a lifestyle choice. We do it because we love the place and the lifestyle. We are currently pursuing a more sustainable way of farming. My dad is 89, still lives and works on the farm and has always farmed the old- fashioned way. Tim has retired now and is very interested in natural farming solutions where possible. He has just finished a composting course and will be implementing what he has learnt. Pests and diseases can be a problem in this tropical climate. We need to keep the trees as healthy as possible to help them fight off any attacks hence the sustainable approach.
How are you enjoying the hosting of visitors to your farm through AirBnb?
Hosting through Airbnb has really added to our lives and our bottom line. Most of our guests are seeking a different experience and we can provide that for them.
What types of things might you offer your guests during their stay?
We have a commercial kitchen and I am always cooking up something. I make a lot of homemade preserves out of our produce and Tim is an amateur beekeeper. I always make sure there is a pot of honey and some homemade preserves for our guests to use while they are here. There’s always a selection of homegrown seasonal fruits for instance bananas, avocados, mangos, papaya etc. Breakfast goodies are also supplied: Freshly laid hen’s eggs, bread, milk, butter, coffee and tea. I also like to put in some other breakfast alternatives such as pancake mix, oatmeal and other breakfast cereal. I like to give guests more than expected so they keep coming back time and time again.
Would I experience any “native animal encounters” on your farm? As in kangaroos, dingos, wombats, koalas, etc.?
We are in a farming area with not much natural bush land, so we don’t see koalas, although occasionally we will have them pass through our property. There are water dragons a plenty down at the dam and sometimes wallabies are seen. We have a lot of native Australian birdlife all year round and some migratory as well. For instance, at the moment, black cockatoos and sulphur crested cockatoos are in the area. About 15 minutes from the farm we have ‘Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary’ which showcases all the native animals and birds. Visitors can go there and get a photo holding a koala and feeding the kangaroos.
Are there historical areas of interest nearby?
There is a historical museum in both Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads. These will give visitors an overview of our valley’s history.
Is there one time of the year that is better to visit over another with regards to flora and climate and crowds? September, October and November are usually dry months and the weather is starting to warm up. We have opposite seasons so that is our Spring. These times are outside of major holidays, too.
How have you built your brand and reputation?
When we started with Airbnb 2 years ago, we started from scratch with totally different clientele. In the last 2 years, we have worked hard to obtain over 250 five star reviews on our 2 apartments. I am very proud of our achievements. For the last few months we have been working on adding more Airbnb rooms to the property. These rooms are in the main homestead building. There will be 2 guest bedrooms, a private bathroom and private lounge room. We have our first guests arriving this week. In total, we will have the capacity to host up to 4 couples.
Have you ever had to field some strange requests from patrons wanting to stay at your units?
Not really, although we do have people ask for discounts on our already very reasonable tariffs. I always politely let them know that this isn’t something we do. There is a weekly discount of 10% which is incentive for guests to book a week.
I bet you get to meet interesting people – has the business proven to be financially rewarding as well?
We have hosted people from all walks of life and have a lot of return customers. One of our frequent guests is an opera singer and I go to see her in concert when she is performing. The business has been rewarding in many ways, including financially and the joy of sharing our beautiful farm with others is a plus.
Have you had to experience any stressful situations as a host?
Nothing too stressful. Trying to juggle the farm work and Airbnb’s can be stressful, that’s why I like to know the guests estimated time of arrival the day before so I can plan my day.
As someone from the US, what can you tell us about traveling in Australia?
I would say that it’s safe and relaxed to travel here, except if you’re driving on the opposite side of the road than you are used to. We just recently had a holiday in Europe and driving on the opposite side was quite challenging and sometimes scary.
What might be some taste sensations you would have us to experience?
Make sure you try Bay Lobsters (commonly known as Morton Bay Bugs). Don’t let the name put you off – they are my favorite Australian seafood. They are sweet and if cooked properly, succulent and juicy. You can also try kangaroo and crocodile if you dare. There is also the great Australian meat pie you can get from any bakery. For dessert try a lamington from a local bakery and a slice of pavlova in a restaurant.
As with all countries, there is a favorite sports past-time… what is the predominant sport in Australia?
In winter, the favorite sports are football of 4 varieties – Australian Rules Football, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Soccer. In the summer, we play cricket and tennis and spend a lot of time in and on the water.
How is the Australian economy doing at the moment?
Our economy is going very well. The global financial collapse did not tend to affect us and we are going from strength to strength.
How is the job market?
We have low unemployment figures which is great. There are lots of job agencies to help those that want to find work.
Is the real estate market going well?
High prices are making it difficult for ‘First Home Buyers’ to enter the market. In our area houses and apartments are sold quickly, as there are so many people moving to the area. In Kingscliff – which is a seaside town 5 minutes from the farm – properties sell in the high $800,000 to well over a million Australian dollars.
How would you describe the personality/ nature of most Australians? Adventurous, welcoming, tribal, laid back, etc., and how do they compare to other countries?
Most Australians are relaxed and welcoming. We are adventurous, like to travel and are obsessed with sport and outdoor activities.
Is Australia dangerous in any way? (As in crime, non acceptance of outsiders, segregation, etc.) If so, to what extent?
I don’t think so. We have a strong multi-cultural society. Being an island nation we’ve all come from somewhere. I have always felt safe in my travels around Australia.
Is it expensive to live in Australia? How do you think it compares with the US?
Friends of mine traveled here from the US and said that eating out was more expensive than they thought it would be.
If you had anything you would have visitors to your country know, what would you like to share?
Get out of the cities and see some countryside where you will get to meet real Aussies. Use Airbnb and have an adventure instead of staying in a hotel. We used Airbnb on our European trip. Each one was unique and we really enjoyed meeting the hosts and staying in villages and towns.
Thank you very much for giving us an insight into your life, your business, and Australia!
BEACHFARM Catherine & Tim Taylor
607 Cudgen Road, Cudgen, New South Wales, Australia ph: +61 2 6674 4054
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