When you take a stroll through the 1,000 perfectly-lined English and French oak trees at Andres and Lynette’s home in Wattle Flat, it’s hard to believe that the couple’s dream to grow black truffles was born without ever tasting the valuable fungi.
“It really was a crime of passion,” says Andres. “We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.”
Now 13 years later, their truffle farm is one of the most well-known in Victoria. Black truffles can fetch around $2,500 a kilogram – last year Andres and Lynette harvested about 40kg. This year, they expect to exceed that total. It’s an incredible success story for a former IT manager and aged care worker, both without any farm experience.
“We talk in grams here, not kilograms. You only need about five grams (of truffle) per person, per dish,” says Andres.
But as he explains, there’s a mountain of hard work and perseverance that goes into a truffle farm. It took around five years before they even started producing truffles and there’s barely a spare minute to have a rest during the year, let alone to enjoy a glass of rose on the deck.
But don’t expect him to work in an office ever again.
“We had some friends that helped us plant the first 200 trees and they ran away because it’s too hard. They’re still good friends but we didn’t want to push the friendship,” explains Andres.
Despite all of the demands of running a 1,000 tree truffle farm, especially during the harvest season between May and late August, Andres and Lynette still find the time to welcome guests to their cottage on Airbnb. They particularly enjoy sharing the beauty of Victoria’s Central Highlands to visitors. The region has notoriously cold winters and hot summers,- perfect conditions for cultivating truffles. However, the couple stumbled upon the property by chance.
“As soon as we walked onto the property, we knew it was home. It was a blank canvas and we are able to create. A lot of what we’ve created is by accident… it’s worked out really well,” says Lynette.
Sitting on 20 acres just 90 minutes down the Western Freeway from Melbourne’s CBD, the cottage is also just a short drive to two nearby towns with a rich dining heritage – Daylesford (25 minutes) and Ballarat (15 minutes).
“We really are right in the middle of these two great, gastronomic areas,” says Andres.
The couple’s love for the region really shines through when they describe the many producers and small business owners they often recommend to their Airbnb guests. This includes local organic wineries, cheese producers, restaurants and cafes they visit – many of whom use their truffles during the season.
If Airbnb guests are genuinely curious about truffles, Andres and Lynette often take them on a walking tour of the farm, with their truffle dogs Narla and Harry leading the way. The dogs have been trained to recognise the alluring scent of the black truffle that’s hiding underground, but it’s Narla that’s the star of the show during the weekend truffle hunts.
“Harry (the Border Collie) is hopeless as he gets too distracted. But everyone still loves him,” says Andres.
Sometimes guests that stay on weekdays during the truffle season can even join in on harvesting. Many choose to buy truffles to take home and add to their own cooking.
“We do events on weekends. After an event we get guests to join in to see what it’s all about. Sometimes they buy truffles and sometimes we give them a few little bits and pieces,” says Lynette.
As with many Airbnb hosts, it’s the love of meeting new people that has even built lifelong friendships for Andres and Lynette.
“There are some people you click with and you make lifetime friends out of it. The second guests we ever had, we are still fantastic friends. They come three times a year, around Christmas and New Years. By their third visit they became regulars and our friends. It’s always full of surprises,” says Lynette.
While some guests come to the cottage to learn more about truffles (or to have bragging rights to their friends, Andres says that many visitors just want to escape the daily grind of the city and to experience life in the country. This means waking up late, picking fresh fruit and vegetables in the garden and just taking everything slow.
“We have one family that comes every year just to relax and sit by the pool. That’s it. And they love it,” he says.
With the beautiful rolling hills, misty mornings and silence of nature surrounding them, who can blame them.
Our hosts’ guide to the Central Highlands
Captains Creek Winery – An organic farm and winery run by Doug and Carolyn May, who also host on Airbnb. A fourth-generation organic farm, the cellar door is open on weekends. Try the sparkling chardonnay pinot noir.
Le Peche Gourmand (French Patisserie)– Situated right in the centre of Creswick, find traditional French pastries made by hand. Brioche, choux pastries, millefeuille, tarte au chocolat; hungry yet?
Odessa Wine Bar – Reportedly the oldest building in Creswick (circa 1852) the restoration has uncovered beautiful stone work. Sit by the fire and order a glass of red or two.
Lambley Nursery – A plant nursery that specialises in dry climate plants.
Summerfield Wines – A fourth-generation winery with the Summerfield family having a long association with the region. It’s all about the red stuff here.
The Maze House – Get lost in this 27-year-old hedge maze and reward yourself with a coffee by the fire.
Wombat Hill Cafe – Run by the same folks as the acclaimed Lake House Restaurant, this is a more casual cafe offering, located in a former caretaker’s cottage. The courtyard is covered by a glasshouse-style roof, so there’ll be plenty of light to spend the afternoon.
Daylesford Cidery – Hand-crafted cider using 17 varieties of apple, organically grown just outside town.
Sault Restaurant – Set behind a playing fountain in a two-storey country house, this restaurant is named after a French town that’s known for its lavender. Oh, and they grow it on the estate too.
The Surly Goat restaurant – Located deep in spa country, it’s all about local produce and wines here.
Hepburn Bathouse and Spa – Drawing natural, mineral-rich water, this bathhouse has been providing wellness bathing since 1895.
Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm – Just ten minutes north of Daylesford, this farm has acres of gardens and trees. Take a stroll through the grounds before enjoying lunch that features produce grown from the farm. Check before you go – they’re only only open on weekends during winter.
Sovereign Hill – Relive the bustling gold rushes of the 1850s at this living museum.
Craig’s Royal Hotel – It has hosted countless prime ministers and members of the royal family in the past 160 years. Still a grand boutique hotel option with an acclaimed food and wine program.
Eclectic Tastes Cafe and Pantry – A cafe that champions local producers, wines and beers.
Meigas – A traditional Spanish restaurant serving exciting tapas. Go for the octopus.
Kryall Castle – A replica medieval castle with a number of themed attractions.
Cafe Sidra – A cafe sitting on the shores of Lake Learmonth, that specialises in cider.
Words Kevin Cheng
Photography Marnie Hawson
All homes referenced in this post are intended purely to inspire and illustrate. Airbnb does not recommend or endorse these home listings or any other homes on the Airbnb platform.