River Cottage a 'beacon' for community

FILMING has wrapped up on the set of River Cottage Australia in Tilba, with the new series to screen from May 1.

River Cottage Australia host Paul West holds one of the chickens that hatched on his farm in Tilba.

River Cottage Australia host Paul West holds one of the chickens that hatched on his farm in Tilba.

The cottage sits on a picturesque property in the foothills of Mount Gulaga, where host Paul West has been creating his self-sufficient farm since March 2013. 

“I would like to see this place as a beacon for small farming,” Mr West said.

Accompanied by his border collie cross kelpie Digger, the show focuses on Mr West growing his own food and taking it to the table.

His farm has moveable pens for chickens, mushrooms in old silos, an extensive vegetable garden, a termite mound kiln, goat pen and dairy cow.   

Cameras were set up around the pig pen last week, in anticipation of Mr West’s two sows giving birth. 

The first season of the show was about “training wheels” and “putting passions into practice” according to Mr West. 

The second season will be more about making the farm a real, viable farm. 

“It’s about up-scaling, revisiting a few old friends, and me becoming more of an active member of the community,” Mr West said.

“I often say, you get out of a community what you put into a community.

“Every day has its highlights.”

These included meeting people, sharing their passions for food and farming, and sharing meals together.

“And just being on the South Coast in general,” he said.

Lowlights of his time at the farm include the initial failure of a crop, which, while it was resurrected, was not very successful, and killing his own livestock.

“You don’t relish it, but you realise that it is necessary as a meat eater,” Mr West said.

He also mentioned the changes he has faced since trading his private life for a public one on TV.

“Just doing something put out there for public scrutiny has been a challenge.”

Mr West doesn’t feel like a celebrity as the local community keeps him grounded.

Series two will see Mr West taking part in such events as the Bermagui Seaside Fair, the Cobargo Folk Festival and the Bega Show, which he found “really, really enjoyable”. 

Produce featured in the coming season will include items from his vegetable garden, seaside ingredients and bush foods. 

Mr West grew up in the Hunter Valley, trained as a chef in Melbourne and worked in restaurants in Tasmania for two years before getting the job as the host of River Cottage Australia. 

It has been his dream to run his own self-sufficient farm, and he hopes to continue to live in Tilba managing his farm for many years. 

“Farming is a long-term commitment,” Mr West said.

“You can’t just throw yourself in and expect everything to be working within a few months. 

“You are constantly learning, I could do this for another seven years and not be good at it!

“I am really fortunate for this opportunity. 

“I love it.”

River Cottage Australia is just hitting its stride, and filming for series three will begin in August. 

The third season will see the farm continuing to expand, increase its production and see Mr West find out his limits.

River Cottage Australia screens on Foxtel’s The Lifestyle Channel.

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