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Spring is on the menu in Castlemaine

Shake off winter and celebrate the abundance of the season at some of Castlemaine’s best (and newest) eateries.

Theatre Royal Castlemaine

The longest operating theatre on the mainland, the Theatre Royal recently opened their new restaurant, Bistro Lola, to complement their existing Espresso Bar.

Head chef Sarah Curwen-Walker describes Spring food as fresh and colourful. “Everything is lighter, brighter and more fragrant.”

A Spring menu must is the pan fried gnocchi with fresh spring vegetables like broad beans, peas, asparagus and the spectacular romanesco cauliflower and served with fresh horseradish, mint, mascarpone and garnished with beautiful pink and purple pea blossoms.

Freshness is key at this time of year so Sarah suggests making the most of our wonderful farmers markets and buying ingredients straight from the source.

Visit this Spring for pizza and wine specials, new films and exciting live music. Follow them on Instagram @bistrolola @theatreroyalcastlemaine on Facebook @theatreroyalcastlemaine or call 03 5472 1196.

Bress Wine, Cider & Produce

Crafting fine wines, ciders and produce using biodynamic practices, Bress welcome Spring each year with the re-opening of the Bress Kitchen.

Founder and Head Wine and Cider Maker, Adam Marks, describes Spring food as fresh and life affirming.

Broad beans are a favourite ingredient. Delicious raw, lightly blanched or cooked in the pod and a perfect match for another Spring staple, the Bress Kitchen overnight wood fire roasted 2 tooth lamb shoulder, which is served on a bed of broad beans sautéed in the lamb jus.

“I love lamb and with all the fresh grass about Spring lamb, and particularly 2-tooth lamb, has great flavour,” says Adam.

Join Adam for lunch on the last weekend of each month from October, starting with their fabulous spit roasted pork.

Follow them on Instagram @bresswinecider on Facebook @bresswinecider or call 03 5474 2262.

Fig Cafe

Each day the enticing display cabinet at Fig is filled with mouth watering, freshly baked cakes and pastries, platters laden with salads of seasonal vegetables and grains, and savoury delights.

Fresh is everything and the influences are broad, reflective of modern eating. Julia Bandelli, who co-owns the business with her mother Victoria Falconer, says as the season changes their menu moves away from roasted dishes to lighter foods like salads and raw foods.

The edame tartine, a charred sourdough base topped with vibrant green Japanese peas and drizzled with fresh olive oil screams Spring and raw or lightly pickled vegetable like zucchini and cauliflower deliver great flavour and texture.

“With the start of Spring comes the promise of delicious things like tomatoes, basil and stone fruit,” says Julia. “That’s the great thing about seasonal eating.”

Follow them on Instagram @figcastlemaine on Facebook @figcastlemaine or call 03 5472 5311.

 

Togs Place & Mulberrys Delicatessen

Known for great coffee and homemade food Togs Place is a family-friendly café with a roof top deck that’s one of the best spots in town on a sunny Spring morning.

The menu changes daily and in Spring it’s out with casseroles and in with dishes like pasta prima vera, light Spring minestrone soup and zingy Vietnamese chicken salad.

Next door is Mulberrys Delicatessen, stocking Australian and European cheeses, meats, house made products like chutneys and biscuits and eclectic gifts.

Manager Cas Davey’s pick for Spring is local soft goat cheese from small producers like Holy Goat in Sutton Grange.

“The goats have just kidded so the milk is abundant, sweet and light and this makes for a really delicious cheese,” she says. “Try pairing it with our smoked Harris Gravlax and New Zealand Oat Crackers for your next Spring party.”

Follow them on Instagram @mulberrysdeli on Facebook @togsplacecafe call Togs Place on 5470 5490 or Mulberrys on 5472 1652.

Cadillac Shack

Spring has brought a new American-inspired family-friendly eatery to Castlemaine. Cadillac Shack is the vision of Castlemaine locals, Graeme and Gilda Ayerst, who have transformed the Mostyn Street premises into a 100-seat diner.

Featuring burgers, ribs, fries, salads, sundaes, shakes and a range of freak-shakes (extreme milk shakes) as well as a more extensive international menu. The range of burgers on the menu was voted the best in Melbourne by The Age Good Food Guide 2014/15.

“One of our business partners runs a very successful restaurant in outer Melbourne and their award-winning burger range has been included on our menu,” says Graeme.

We can’t wait to try.

Follow them on Instagram @cadillac_shack on Facebook @cadillacshack or call 03 5416 1486.

 

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Castlemaine Secondary College: a true community school

Whole school assembly in the new gymnasium

It has been a big year for Castlemaine Secondary College. After years of development and planning they’re decommissioning their old senior campus and bringing everyone together at a new, purpose-built 7 – 12 site. They’ve also appointed a new Principal, Castlemaine Secondary graduate, Paul Frye.

“I’m extremely proud to have returned to Castlemaine Secondary and be leading it through such exciting, pivotal times,” says Paul.

Paul grew up in Castlemaine, leaving to study then teach in schools around the state before returning in 2010 as one of the school’s assistant principals. He took a detour in early 2017, taking up an acting principal position at one of the local primary schools, and was appointed Principal in July 2017.

“We have some amazing new facilities and are about to open more,” says Paul.

The first new building to open back in 2014 was the Wellbeing Centre and Gym, which includes science labs and classrooms. The Engineering and Trade facilities followed at the start of 2017 and the new performing arts centre, including auditorium, drama and music rooms, will be completed by the end of the year.

Eventually there will be four precincts: Wellbeing, Engineering, Performing Arts and Art/Administration, all built around a central piazza.

CSC Principal Paul Frye

“We’re a school that caters for a diverse range of students and we’ve been working on building a 7 – 12 culture for a few years now,” says Paul.

“It’s great to finally all be together. Watching the younger kids walk through the learning spaces and see the Year 12s with their heads down, working away, really adds to the culture. Prior to that VCE was a bit of a mystery to them.”

The school offers a broad range of programs, including a Steiner stream, but is still small enough that students are known by their teachers, the majority of whom live locally.

“I’m proud of the fact that we are a true community school,” says Paul. “We are the only 7 – 12 provider in town and that carries with it a lot of responsibility.”

“We have a strong diversity of students and we cater for everyone, from the high achieving students to those who struggle and we have a range of programs to keep them all engaged and supported.”

“I think we do a really good job of enabling students to get to the destination they choose,” he adds.

“Some aspire to university and we have an excellent record of getting them there with consistently high VCE results. Others want to go out into the workforce or into TAFE and we have programs to help them achieve their goals.”

Like to know more? Visit www.csc.vic.edu.au call 03 5479 1111 or email castlemaine.sc@edumail.vic.gov.au

Follow them on Instagram @castlemaine.sc

Local Landcarers take out statewide awards

Cactus warrior information stall at the Maldon-Baringhup Agricultural Show

Landcare groups from around the state met at Government House last week for the 2017 Victorian Landcare Awards with many of the top prizes awarded to groups and individuals from the shire.

“We were thrilled with the results,” says Regional Landcare Coordinator, Tess Grieves. “The Mount Alexander Shire was so well represented and really successful at the awards.”

The awards are held every two years and celebrate the efforts of hundreds of individuals, community groups, schools and organisations across Victoria that protect and enhance the natural environment and improve sustainable agriculture.

This year, 85 nominations were received in the 14 award categories, winners in several categories will go on to represent the state at the 2018 National Landcare Awards.

Connecting Country, a community-operated landscape restoration organisation, which also operates as an informal Landcare network across the Mount Alexander Shire, was awarded the Landcare Network Award.

Ian Higgins from Friends of Campbells Creek won the Australian Government Individual Landcare Award for his work transforming Campbells Creek from a degraded, weed-infested dump to a site rich with native vegetation.

Another shire resident, Ian Grenda, was Highly Commended in this category.

Local cactus warriors, The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group (TCCG) received the Fairfax Media Landcare Community Groups Award for their work over the last decade destroying millions of wheel cactus plants and restoring their local environment.

The TCCG was praised for its community-based approach, linking people together and raising awareness throughout the shire, particularly through their monthly field days.

“Winning the award is recognition of the effort we’ve all put in,” says Ian Grenda, who has been with TCCG from the very beginning.

“Groups and individuals from the Shire did well in many categories. I think it’s a great indication of just how active Landcare is in the region. We’re all trying to do something positive for our local environment.”

Also nominated this year were Asha Bannon from Connecting Country for the Young Landcarer Award and Chewton and Winters Flat Primary Schools for the Junior Landcare Teams Award.

Congratulations to all the winners and the nominees.

 

 

Innovative small farming model developed in Harcourt

Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards meets with members of the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance at the Finlay family farm in Harcourt.

Small-scale organic farming in the region received a boost last month with news that the Victorian Government would back development of a unique, collaborative farming model.

Hugh and Katie Finlay of Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens have a plan. They want to establish an alliance of small organic farmers on their Harcourt property, all running different, but complementary, enterprises.

Katie describes it as the “perfect collision of a range of problems”.

“Small-scale organic farming is risky,” she says. “With all the risk and the expenses usually carried by a single family.”

“We’ve often wondered whether there’s a better way we could farm that would share the risks, but also make better use of the resources. There are lots of dedicated, passionate people out there who want to run their own farming business, but the barriers, especially buying land, are prohibitive.”

The Finlays also have a succession issue to solve. They want to keep their orchard in production but take a much less active role. Their children don’t want to come home and run the farm but they don’t want to sell.

The Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance would give small organic farmers the opportunity to lease acreage on the Finlay’s Harcourt property. The Finlays hope that will include someone to lease their orchard so they can step back, oversee the alliance and give more of their energy to their online teaching business, Grow Great Fruit.

Hugh and Katie already have a successful lease arrangement in place with a market garden (where the idea of the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance first began), and have now been joined by a micro-dairy and vermouth producer as they begin work on a Business Development Plan with backing from a $10,000 Regional Development Victoria grant.

They’ll use the funding and this development phase to lay the groundwork and establish the structure of the alliance. Investigating co-marketing opportunities, new products and how they can share resources to keep the cost of farming as low as possible.

“While there are lots of people share farming we don’t know of any arrangements with that extra layer of partnership agreement over the top,” says Katie.

“I’m a big believer in people owning their own business. I think you get much better buy in and people take it more seriously.”

Depending on the outcome of the development phase they hope to opt in to more funding for implementation and gain more partners.

“The environment is really changing,” says Katie. “The shift to alliances, collaborations and cooperatives is happening everywhere and both the State and Federal Governments have an appetite for funding these projects,” she says.

The business development plan will be completed by the end of the year and we look forward to seeing where it takes them.

 

Maldon Primary: balancing academics and wellbeing

Maldon Primary grade prep/one students working on some fun maths games in class. Image supplied by Maldon Primary School.

Deciding where to send your kids to school can be agonising, especially if you’re moving to a new town. In the Mount Alexander Shire we offer everything from state to Steiner education and from tiny one class schools to large contemporary colleges.

We thought we’d drop in and ask the schools to share what makes them unique. First up, Maldon Primary.

“Maldon Primary is a warm and friendly place to send your child,” says Principal, Jodie Mengler.

Jodie has been at Maldon for 19 years, five as principal, and says the school, which currently has enrolments of 94 students, is strong in both academics and student wellbeing.

In 2016 Maldon was named in the top five most improved primary schools in Australia based on data shared on the Federal Government’s, My Schools website.

“We’ve been on a huge improvement journey over the last three years implementing programs to ensure every child is able to reach their full potential and thrive,” she says.

The Kids as Catalyst Program, an innovative, child-led social change program for grades 4 – 6 children, is one she’s particularly proud of.

“The kids work like mini philanthropists, developing partnerships with community groups, working out what they need and implementing a project,” she says.

“Children often find it hard to step into the shoes of others,” Jodie adds. “With Catalyst they identify and solve real problems and learn how rewarding giving back can be.”

The school has recently worked with the Maldon Men’s Shed, Maldon Pre-School and the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). A group this year is working with Maldon Hospital to introduce animals for therapy.

Maldon Primary School main building

When you visit the school you can’t help but be wowed by the grounds. Whether it’s AFL, soccer, playing in sand, in the music garden, feeding the chooks or the fish, working in the vegie garden (where the children regularly harvest and cook meals to share), using the fitness equipment or just dragging branches to build cubbies, the opportunities for play are vast.

The school buildings reflect the heritage and history of the town (Australia’s first Notable Town) but look inside and you’ll discover thoroughly contemporary learning spaces thanks to over half a million dollars of building upgrades which have just been completed.

“It’s all about creating an environment where the children love coming to school and where parents know their children will be happy and safe,” says Jodie.

“The partnerships we have with parents and the wider community are so important to us. We want families to be part of the school community and know that we value their input into their child’s education.”

Like to know more? Visit Maldon Primary School, call 03 5475 1484 or email maldon.ps@edumail.vic.gov.au

 

 

Census 2016: our region is growing and the way we live is changing

The 2016 Census has been released, providing the latest data on Australia’s population – who we are, where we live, how we live and much, much more. So what does this snapshot of the nation reveal about those of us who live in the Mount Alexander Shire and how have we changed since the last census in 2011?

There are more of us

More people still live in our capital cities, which are growing twice as fast as the rest of the country, but regional areas are also experiencing rapid growth.

The number of people in the Mount Alexander Shire has grown by nearly 7 per cent since 2011, from 17,591 to 18,761.

That’s a similar rate to our neighbours in the popular Hepburn Shire, but outstrips the growth in places like the LaTrobe, Yarra Ranges and Colac Shires, all comparable distances from Melbourne, by several per cent.

Affordability is still high

Housing affordability is a hot topic across the country. High buyer demand and limited supply continues to drive prices upward and most people are feeling the pinch, particularly if they’re living in a capital city.

In 2016 people in our region spent an average of $1,300 a month on their mortgage.

That’s more than $400 less than the state average of $1,728 and significantly lower than the average monthly mortgage in popular Melbourne suburbs such as Northcote, Coburg, Prahran and Essendon, which range from $2,000 – $2,167.

 If you’re looking to buy property in one of the towns in our region such as Castlemaine or Maldon this is good news.

 The way we live is changing

While the majority of homes in the shire are still separate houses the 2016 Census shows an increase in other types of dwellings such as semi-detached homes and townhouses.

The number of semi-detached, terrace or townhouses in the shire has more than doubled in the last five years.

“The trend towards more concentrated, medium density living in towns like Castlemaine and Maldon reflects changes we are seeing all over the country,” says Waller Realty Agent, Tom Robertson.

“More people in our region are choosing to build and live in smaller homes for reasons of convenience, for cost and, in many cases, to reduce their environmental impact. We expect to see this shift in thinking continue to grow in the next few years.”

Additional details from the Census are due to be released in October 2017. This includes information on employment and income.

Maldon goes plastic bag free

It’s estimated one trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide. The Maldon community is taking a stand against waste, joining 30 other towns in the Loddon Mallee region to become a Plastic Bag Free Town.

Australians use over 10 million new plastic bags every day. Each bag can take up to 1,000 years to break down, meaning that every plastic bag ever produced is still in a landfill. Those that are blown away, dumped or littered end up in water systems and, ultimately, in the ocean where they are thought to be responsible for killing more than one million seabirds and 100,000 mammals every year.

The Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group (LMWRRG) and Maldon Inc have been working with stores throughout Maldon to help them become plastic bag free. The group says owners, managers and the general public have been hugely supportive throughout the transition process.

“We strongly encourage all Maldon residents to support the town traders and remember to take their reusable bags,” says Karen Fazzani, Executive Officer LMWRRG.

“Every effort in this regard helps protect the environment from damage plastic bags can cause especially when they take such a long time to break down.”

Stores that previously supplied plastic bags have been provided with a recycled paper alternative and re-usable calico bags will be available throughout the town. Boomerang Bags have also recently become available.

It’s hoped that as time goes on people will start to bring their own re-usable bags when they shop, removing the need for retailers to supply a bag altogether. To get everyone in the swing of things, throughout July people can enter the draw to win a hamper worth $250 every time they shop in Maldon with their re-usable bags.

“One of the actions in our Council Plan is to support Maldon and other communities to be plastic bag free, says Sharon Telford, Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire. “As a Maldon local, it’s fantastic for us to be the first plastic bag free town in Mount Alexander Shire.”

“Reusable bags are a simple and effective way that we can all reduce our impact on the environment. It’s small decisions that have a lasting impact and I’m very proud of our community for taking this step.”

The team at the Waller Realty office in Maldon are extremely supportive of the initiative and praised local traders for their commitment to protecting the environment.

“Becoming a Plastic Bag Free Town will make Maldon an even more appealing place to live and we congratulate everyone involved,” says Waller Realty’s Leah Panos.