Canowindra is perhaps best known these days as the “hot air balloon capital of Australia” – as we were reminded last week on the ABC’s Back Roads television program.
But agriculturally it is probably best known as the source of arguably the state’s choicest lucerne hay, grown on farms of rich alluvial flats lining the Belubula River.
These tightly held properties seldom come up for sale, but next month all eyes will be on Canowindra when one of the top-ranked lucerne farms in the Belubula Valley, “Fairview”, goes under the hammer.
It will be only the second time in more than a century that “Fairview” has hit the market, the other time being in 2003 when it was bought by the present owner, Garry Whatman, from the Finn family.
William Finn and his forebears had grown lucerne on “Fairview” since the 1920s, at one time trading as hay and chaff merchants under a partnership of Finn and Murray.
Mr Whatman, who previously had a dairy farm at Kangaloon on the Southern Highlands, has continued the lucerne tradition at “Fairview”, producing top-drawer hay for the equine industry.
But now he and his wife Kim are ready to ease up, and retire to Mr Whatman’s old stamping-ground of the Southern Highlands.
They have listed “Fairview” for sale with First National Bowyer and Livermore at Orange and it will go to on-site auction on February 23, unless sold beforehand.
Situated 12 kilometres south-west of Canowindra, “Fairview” is a property of 183 hectares (453ac) comprising mostly rich black alluvial river flats rising to gentle slopes of red loam.
The property is described as 90-95 per cent arable, and consists of 148ha of established lucerne, grown for market sale, and a balance of topdressed natural pasture country.
Although the property comes with river and bore licences, the self-watering nature of the alluvial country enables the lucerne to be grown without irrigation, yielding up to six cuts a year.
Average annual production is in the order of 35,000 to 40,000 small square bales and 1000-1200 large square bales, all of which finds a ready market in the discerning Sydney equine sector.
Supplementary income is derived from temporary trading of the property’s water entitlements, and from year-round agistment of sheep (usually) or cattle (sometimes) on the grazing country.
Average rainfall is in the range of 625-675mm and the property is superbly watered by a 4km frontage to the Belubula River, a 1km frontage to a permanent billabong, and a stock and domestic bore.
Apart from its productive richness, “Fairview” stacks up as an executive-level lifestyle property, thanks to the present owners’ extensive renovations and extensions to the original 1920s homestead.
Set in landscaped gardens with views across the river flats, the four-bedroom/two bathroom homestead now incorporates a modern kitchen (with butler’s pantry) and open-plan living area that is seamlessly joined together by an enclosed breezeway that acts as the entrance to this home.
It has polished concrete flooring, French doors opening to verandas and a pool and outdoor entertaining area.
It is complemented by a self-contained one-bedroom studio apartment and a three-car lock-up garage.
Working improvements include a 15m x 13m hayshed with 20,000-bale capacity, a three-stand shearing shed and sheep yards, steel cattle yards and silos.