Becoming truffle growers was a moment of impulsivity for Andres and Lynette Haas.
It was 2004 when they first heard about truffles. They read an article in The Age about a truffle grower in Tasmania and fell in love with the idea.
Two years later they had bought the farm in Wattle Flat and started Black Cat Truffles.
“We researched it to the nth degree and found Ballarat was a good area for growing truffles, because you need cold winters, warm summers and plenty of rainfall,” Andres said.
“We took our teenagers on a grand tour of Europe in Setpember 2006. You know how a month after you come back from holidays you just don’t want to be at work anymore?
“That unfortunately coincided with an invitation to go and visit this guy in Tasmania who had grown the first truffles. That was late October. We absolutely fell in love with it even further. By Boxing Day we had bought a farm with absolutely zero previous farming history whatsoever.”
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Andres was an IT manager and Lynette was working in aged care. The embarrassing part of the story, Andres said, was they had never seen or tasted a real truffle until six months after planting.
From a moment of spontaneity, Andres and Lynette have grown Black Cat Truffles to produce around 45 kilograms of truffles this year, alongside successful ventures in agritourism.
And as it has turned out, they got into the truffle business at the right time.
“The hype around truffles now is incredible,” Andres said.
Those starting farms now will miss the current obsession. It takes at least four years after planting for truffle trees to produce.
Truffles germinate in November and December and have a six month growing period. Then they’re harvested by smell, with the help of a truffle dog.
This years’ season ended in August, and was a little disappointing for many growers due to a long dry autumn.
Not many people knew about truffles 11 years ago when the Haas’ first started and truffle growing was not a well known science.
Andres said they are still experimenting with best practice and in recent years, have found agritourism to be a sustainable cost model.
“We get lots of really interesting people come through on the truffle hunts. We get people from overseas as well, many from Asian countries like Singapore and Hong Kong,” he said.
“We never get tired of talking to people about truffles.”
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