It takes a lot of faith to buy a property in another state over the internet when you haven’t seen it yet. But land in Gippsland was tightly held back then, properties were rare, and Tamsin Carvan was certain – more certain than she’d been about anything before – that Gippsland was where she wanted to live.

It wasn’t a totally blind purchase. Before she made the move south from her native Blue Mountains, up near Sydney, Carvan had worked in water resources, helping to set up the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (now the Authority). She spent years travelling up the Murray-Darling Basin during its worst drought period, looking at “salt pans, and dead trees… dead communities. Everything just dead,” she says.

“It was that moment that I decided I really wanted to grow things and be involved in some form or another with food – growing and producing it. But not in that context.”

As part of all the water work, Carvan found an old, hand-drawn map. On it were five or six little circles with ‘r’ exceeds ‘e’ (rainfall exceeds evaporation). She laid it over an atlas map of Australia, and saw that one circle fell around Gippsland.

“I thought, ‘Gippsland… I don’t know anything about this place’. I jumped on a plane to come and have a look at it. It was September, everything was glowing green and after all the salt pans and dead things, I literally pulled over on the side of Main South Road, one of the first roads I ever drove down, and I could not stop crying because my whole body was just going, ‘What is this?’ It was the physical effect of the green and the lush and everything. It was incredible.”

Carvan didn’t have plans to farm or anything like that on her Poowong East property; she just wanted to grow her own food. She started with vegetables, but within a decade she was growing absolutely everything herself: fruit, meat, milk, dairy. She didn’t buy any foodstuffs; everything she ate she grew or farmed herself.

“But it became this whole thing of what to do with the surplus, because I always had all this surplus food. I used to feel oppressed by too much food. I didn’t know what to do with it.

“I thought it would be great to be able to share that surplus in a way that stays true to the spirit in which we actually eat it, which is that it never touches the inside of a refrigerator, it’s all about the dirt, it’s totally fresh.”

The solution, Carvan decided, was to open her home to anyone who wanted to learn how to harvest, cook or just eat. She set up Tamsin’s Table, and ran masterclasses (on cheese making, bottling, butter making, pasta making and more) and Sunday lunches, where guests could come and share a meal that Carvan had prepared from her garden.

At the end of 2018, and after six years, Tamsin will no longer be sharing her table. Instead, she’s about to open a grocery and produce shop in Korumburra called The Borough Department Store. “I wanted to take the feeling of Tamsin’s Table out into the streets,” she says. “A lot of the food stuff that’s happening here is a bit secret and invisible, and you sort of have to know to tap into it. I love the idea of sort of democratising that and bringing it into the streets.”

And that’s not all. She’s also taken a site across the road from The Borough, where she’ll run the Supper Club; a simple restaurant serving food made from produce she’s grown herself. The plan is to open six nights a week, kicking off with an aperitivo hour from 4pm. She’ll also host Sunday lunches there to keep the spirit of Tamsin’s Table alive.

“I want to crack Gippsland open for other people; I want them to come here and go, “Oh my god,” like I did,” she says.

The Borough Dept. Store
63 Commercial Street, Korumburra

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