Daniel Kelleher had always wanted to be a farmer, so when he had a chance to quit corporate life in Melbourne he took it.
After an exhaustive 18-month-long search for land, from Margaret River in Western Australia to northern New South Wales, he found what he was looking for 75 kilometres south-east of Hobart.
“I settled on the Tasman Peninsula,” Mr Kelleher said.
“It all came down to cost per acre, holding capacity, and lifestyle choice as well.
“I saw healthy cows, trees, beautiful ocean, and everything looked clean and nice. It was a well-run farm before I took it over, so I thought ‘Yep this is the place’.”
Looking to the future
Mr Kelleher purchased Premaydena Hill, a 100-hectare former cattle farm, where he and wife Ella Hoban-Kelleher now grow an annual garlic crop — for the famed Koonya Garlic Festival — as well as sheep and vines.
They have been planning on developing a cellar door to cater to the ready Tasman Peninsula tourism market, traditionally centred around the Port Arthur Historical Site.
“We’ve put a vineyard in and we don’t just want to sell fruit, we want to make our own wine and meet people and open a cellar door,” Mr Kelleher said.
The Kellehers have also been growing pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris, and are planning a third block of vines next year made up of riesling and cool climate shiraz.
“It’s not something I’ve ever studied, and it’s not something 10 years ago I saw myself doing, but it’s more of an evolution on the farm and obviously smaller farms like ours need to diversify and this is the perfect fit,” Mr Kelleher said.
“The weather is great for cool climate wines and we have available water on the farm.
“It’s just like everything else now; you learn off YouTube, you ask your neighbour and ask people in the game.
‘Sky’s the limit’ for growing area
The Kellehers’ modern take to starting life on the farm began when the couple met on dating app, Tinder.
Ms Hoban-Kelleher had been working as a medical researcher in Hobart.
“Fortunately I’d set a 50-kilometre radius as the crow flies for my search area and someone I managed to come across was Daniel down in Premaydena,” she said.
While Ms Hoban-Kelleher is now the secretary of the Koonya Garlic Festival, her husband is involved with Landcare, is in the volunteer fire brigade, and the couple also have two young boys.
“You look at the people who are moving down and I think people are trying to embrace the tourism,” Mr Kelleher said.
“Our cellar door is going to rely heavily on tourists coming here and trying our wine.
“There are gin distilleries opening, there are whisky distilleries, and there are all these cool little ventures popping up and I think the sky’s the limit.”
Microbusinesses taking off
Tasman District Council’s Deputy Mayor, Maria Stacey, has lived in the region her whole life and has noticed the change.
The southern Tasman Peninsula is a 90-minute drive from Hobart and Ms Stacey said while the “vast majority” of tourists were still driving down the highway to visit Port Arthur, other micro rural businesses were springing up.
“We’ve got a few pear trees. We value-add with making some product. We call ourselves Perfect Pear and we make chutney and pear paste, and some jam.
“That’s a nice little micro thing that’s happening on the side and there’s quite a few of those like that in the community.”
Ms Stacey said infrastructure challenges such as sealing tourist thoroughfares, like Stormlea Road on the way to the Cape Raoul walking track, and sewage, would increase as more tourists visited the region.
“The Peninsula really doesn’t have a sewage or water scheme,” she said.
“Everybody relies on tank water and if it doesn’t rain we buy it in, and there’s very limited supply on the Peninsula.
“Definitely the water situation we have to have on our radar.”
An evolving community
Former cray fisherman turned beef farmer, Geoff Noye, has been living at White Beach and owns a 100-hectare property at Highcroft.
A fourth-generation Peninsula local, Mr Noye has lived in the area for his entire 70 years and said while there was once four football teams and three cricket teams, now there were none.
Traditional primary industries were also on the decline he said.
“You used to see them, they were always about. But now, you don’t see anyone.”
Mr Noye said the region was turning into “a national park” and an ongoing surge in wallaby numbers was reducing stock numbers and increasing costs.
He said only two cray boats remained — down from 11 — that orchards had closed, and most farmers were aged in their 70s or even 80s.
“There’s probably other things that could be grown here but where once you would’ve had the Agriculture Department travelling around keeping an eye open and suggesting this or that, you don’t see anyone anymore,” Mr Noye said.
Positive outlook for the Peninsula
The former director of the Koonya Garlic Festival and manager of the Nubeena and Tasman Bendigo Bank, Steve McQueeney, said the Peninsula was “a bit of a slow-burn” and agreed tourism could be “a double-edged sword” because of the pressure it put on infrastructure.
But he said businesses were diversifying and investment was increasing.
Mr McQueeney said he hoped forecast improvements to the Hobart Airport and better access to the southern Chinese market could help transform the fortunes of the region’s producers.
“To see business development, younger couples coming down here and starting new business is exciting,” he said.