Why these tree-changers bucked the trend and left their Sunshine Coast unit to run a homestay in Tasmania

Beachside apartment living is the polar opposite to running a farm and homestay, but one year after an adventurous couple swapped in the Sunshine Coast for Tasmania’s lush Derwent Valley, life has never been better.

Inspired by Tasmania’s Fat Pig Farm, Trish and Steve Davison are harvesting vegetables, raising free-range pigs, making their own specialist small goods, and serving homegrown gourmet meals to guests.

Hamlet Downs Country Accommodation came with a stunning garden.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Celebrating her family’s Myanmar heritage, Ms Davison ran a business on the coast, hosting cooking classes and bottling a range of Burmese-inspired sauces, relishes and mustards. Mr Davison owned a successful metal fabrication business.

A photo of a couple's backs, looking out to the distance
Steve and Trish Davison moved to Hamlet Downs at Fentonbury just over a year ago.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

It was on their first trip to Tasmania that they began yearning for a different life.

“We just felt that there was more that we could offer and more that we could branch out into doing and we were absolutely smitten with the beauty of Tasmania,” Ms Davison said.

A beautiful dam with trees and a mountain in the distance.
The Dam comes with a Resident Platypus population.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

They started searching and were instantly impressed by the flower-filled gardens, Orchards, Resident Platypus, and the character-filled Homestead at Hamlet Downs Country Accommodation. The kitchen, with its huge stainless-steel bench top, sealed the deal.

“I’m not going to lie. This is what sold this, I walked into this kitchen and I said, ‘Buy it,'” Ms Davison laughed.

Salami's hanging in a fridge
Trish and Steve Davison are making smallgoods.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

This month marks a year since the couple made their tree change and their farm’s fridges are already filled with curing ham, Salamis, cheesy Cabanas and prosciutto.

“We started off with four pigs and decided to keep the two sows and start a breeding program with them. They are a Duroc-Berkshire cross,” Mr Davison said.

A cute black gray pig looks at the camera as another has its bum to the camera.
These pasture-raised sows will be kept as breeding stock.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

As well as meat from their pasture-raised pigs, throughout the seasons they have collected quail eggs and grown pears, persimmons, apple, silverbeet, beetroot, rhubarb, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beans, lettuce, kohlrabi, Kale, pumpkin, tomatoes and zucchini.

“Beside the kitchen this is my most favorite place to play, this is all grown from seed,” Ms Davison said.

A thriving vegetable patch with a polytunnel next to it.
The polytunnel will be crucial in winter.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

The couple are part of the international Slow Food movement, but when Ms Davison was first awarded a Snail of Approval from Slow Food Noosa in 2019, she never imagined that they would become tree-changers, farmers and farmstay hosts.

The Talented cook’s Gold Aztec Green Hot Sauce made from farm-grown tomatillos, Zucchini Sweet Mustard Relish made with farm-grown zucchini, De-Vinely Red Tomato Sauce and Coriander Honey Mustard won gold, silver and bronze at the 2022 Royal Tasmanian Fine Food Awards .

Jars of relish and pickles and sauce on a table outside in the country.
Trish Davison’s condiments have won gold, silver and bronze at the Royal Tasmanian Fine Food Awards.(Supplied: Trish Davison)

“I could pinch myself to see that this dream has come true, living on 36 Acres (14.6 hectares) in the Central Highlands’ Derwent Valley region of Tasmania – how does it get any better than this?” Ms Davison said.

University of Tasmania postdoctoral researcher Sebastian Kocar said the Davison’s move from the Sunshine Coast to Tasmania did not reflect a wider trend.

Dog looking lovingly at man.
Sunny the blue staffy with owner Steve Davison.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

In the 12 months to September last year, the island state’s population grew just 0.03 per cent to 540,839.

More people left Tasmania (689 people) than arrived during that time, compared with a net inflow of (1,142) people in the previous year.

Sheep and alpacas with an orchard behind them.
The farm came with sheep and alpacas.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

“During the Pandemic, compared to before the Pandemic, arrivals and departments remained quite steady,” Dr Kocar said.

“It obviously affected [because of Australian border lockdowns] net Overseas Migration is substantially more than Interstate Migration. “

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