The Best Farm-Based Cooking Class in Tasmania

Rodney Dunn teaches at Tasmania's Agrarian Kitchen


Locavores strive to eat food grown within a hundred mile radius, but The Agrarian Kitchen goes one better by creating Tasmania’s first hand’s-on, farm-based cooking school, where many of the ingredients are found just outside the kitchen door.

The brainchild of Rodney Dunn, who trained at Tetsuya’s in Sydney and was food editor of The Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine, The Agrarian Kitchen teaches guests how to reconnect cooking in the kitchen with growing produce on the land. It is located in a 19th century weatherboard schoolhouse surrounded by edible gardens in the Derwent Valley, a 45-minute scenic drive from Hobart.

Milking the goats for icecream at The Agrarian KitchenThe old is new again at this little patch of paradise, where Rodney and his wife Severine and young son Tristan moved in 2007. Sustainable farming practices are at the core of their philosophy with the farm recreating the agrarian system that predated the industrial revolution.

The overriding focus is to show people how to cook with natural seasonal foods that are bursting with flavor.

The farm

A bevy of heirloom vegetables are grown organically without the use of chemicals or artificial fertilizers. There is also a huge berry patch with raspberries, bramble berries, gooseberries and currants, plus a 37-tree orchard of heritage apples, pears, plums, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, quinces and mulberries.

A big fan of rare-breed animals, Dunn has Barnevelder chickens, which produce dark brown eggs with chocolate spots, Emden and Chinese cross-breed geese, British Alpine milking goats and Wessex saddle back pigs. He is also a strong supporter of local farmers and foragers who supply wild mushrooms, Wagyu beef, black truffles, rock lobster, abalone, lamb and wild trout.

Preparing home-grown vegetables at The Agrarian KitchenA maximum of eight people enjoy each day-long class and I recently enjoyed a fun-filled day here with my husband and two teenage daughters.

Collecting produce, eggs and milk

First, we donned gumboots to collect eggs, pick fruit and vegetables, and even learn how to milk goats. Then it is all hands on deck in the kitchen to prepare a seasonal feast of six dishes, which are enjoyed over lunch with boutique Tasmanian wines and artisanal ales. Even the dishes are made by a local potter.

The kitchen

The spacious professional kitchen is located in a former classroom with large casement windows overlooking the five-acre property, shaded by trees school children planted at Federation. The blackboard is now used to feature the day’s menu. The center piece is the Alan Scott designed wood-fired masonry oven, a favorite of artisan bakers to make naturally fermented bread. A large stainless steel work bench offers plenty of room for everyone to work collaboratively as they share the tasks of each recipe whilst enjoying tasty samples.

The recipes

Dessert at The Agrarian KitchenWe cooked potato gnocchi in zucchini ricotta and mint, barbecued rabbit stuffed with basil, quinoa with baby root vegetables and tahini yoghurt; cucumber, snowpea and quail egg salad, and grapefruit curd filled brandy snaps with honey rhubarb and berries with grapefruit and mint sorbet. A magnificent repast.

Rodney offered calm and thoughtful guidance every step of the way and peppers his instructions with practical tips that are useful for beginners and experienced cooks alike. It was a convivial, chatty and relaxed atmosphere.

The feast

But best of all, we got to eat what we created and so after everything is finished we all settled down at the rustic country table in the adjoining dining room to enjoy the feasts of our labors.

Classes are in three formats with the original Agrarian Experience being the most popular.  The Little Agrarian is a paddock-to-plate adventure for children while Agrarian Master Classes focus on artisanal topics such as secrets of sourdough, charcuterie, handmade pasta, preserving summer’s bounty, pastry 101, and desserts to die for. Classes are taught by Dunn and other experts, including a butcher, a baker and a pastry maker.

Your say

There are so many fabulous cooking classes all over the world these days. I’d love to hear about your favorites.


Collecting vegetables for the cooking class at The Agrarian Kitchen

The Agrarian Kitchen

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The Agrarian Kitchen -42.842768, 147.034285

Sue Gough Henly

Sue Gough Henly is award-winning travel writer and photographer whose bi-line has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and all the major Australian publications. Her travel blog, Genuine Journeys, is full of insider tips on the best places for authentic experiences and luxury splurges. She is also the author of Australia’s Best Places travel app. When she doesn’t have sand between her toes or a pack on her back, she writes about food, wine and culture.

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