Gunns Plains and the northwest coast consists mainly of rich red volcanic soil known as kraznozem which forms from eroded basalt rock. The basalt rock can be seen along our coastline and is the dominant rock outcrop reaching into the sea. It can be black with red stains from iron present in the rock and surrounding soils. Our rich red soils grow some of the finest cool climate agricultural products in the world. From outstanding grass fed beef to fine wines and vegetables, to world renown cheeses - Tasmania offers the best. Some of the more prominient agricultural activities are listed below, all Tasmanian agriculture is described excellently on the government web site www.dpiw.tas.gov.au . All this rich farmland is surrounded by beautiful rainforest extending from the coast to the base of the mountains. From here alpine vegetation will guide you to our highlands and Cradle Mountain.
Pyrethrum is a crop you will see along the northwest coast.
The pyrethrum industry covers the growing of pyrethrum daisies to enable pyrethrin oils to be extracted. The extraction and refining process involves a number of steps, most of which are undertaken in Tasmania before the refined product is exported – primarily to the USA. Tasmanian pyrethrum products are used as the key ingredient in domestic and industrial pest control formulations. An effective insecticide with very low toxicity to mammals is a key feature of such products. For further information refer to www.dpiw.tas.gov.au or www.botanicalra.com.au.
You will see poppies grown in Tasmania in spring and early summer. Flowering is most impressive and can be seen during December-January.
The medicinal poppy industry has now been operating in Tasmania for over 30 years, and the State produces approximately 50% of the world’s legal poppy crop. The industry size has been fluctuating in the past three years with productivity increasing with the use of superior cultivars, advances in production technology and selection of better growing areas. The estimated farm gate value to growers was approximately $65 million. The industry’s total value to the Tasmania economy is expected to be about $200 million. Tasmania also produces poppy seed for culinary purposes. Poppies are grown under licences issued by the Poppy Advisory and Control Board. For more information see www.dpiw.tas.gov.au or www.gsk.com.au/about-us_poppy-production_poppyhistory.aspx.
Potatoes are grown for the fresh market for local consumption and for Tasmania's two processing factories, Mc Cains in Smithton and Simplot in Ulverstone. The types of potatoes grown vary for each market, and new cultivars are always being developed. Tasmania’s potato industry is the largest sector of the State’s vegetable industry, making up approximately 70% of the total value. About 80% of potatoes are grown for processing, with the industry focusing on frozen French fry production. It is thought that potatoes first came to Tasmania in 1803 with Lt. Bowen and were soon shipped from Hobart Town to mainland Australia. In the 1920s the annual harvest was about 69,000t but with average yields of only 5t/ha. Tasmania now produces over 400,000t per year with yields over 60t/ha. For more information see www.dpiw.tas.gov.au , www.simplot.com.au.
If you are visiting the Northwest coast of Tasmania in spring and summer you will see local farmers making hay and silage with modern equipment that many may not have seen. The aim is the same, to store pasture for use later in the year when grass growth slows. Farmers use two main baling machines which make large 6ft diameter round bales or 8ft long large square bales. Both can be used for hay or silage. Silage can be made earlier when pastures contain more moisture. The bales are wrapped in plastic, providing a airtight seal, which allows some fermentation, prevents mould and spontaneous combustion. These bales can also be stored outside.
Hay needs to be dried in the paddock longer and must be stored in a barn. For more information see www.dpiw.tas.gov.au .
Gunns Plains has a large herd of beef cattle, most are of the Angus breed, which are grassfed and travel to a range of markets. The Wing family produces certified beef cattle under the Meat Standards Australia program which go to both of Tasmania's large abattoirs, Greenhams in Smithton and Swift Australia at Longford. The Wing family produce yearling beef, processing cows and bullocks for these companies. The family also supply some feedlots with grassfed steers which are finished on grain before slaughter. For more information see www.dpiw.tas.gov.au , www.greenham.com.au , www.jbsswift.com.au or www.mla.com.au .
The dairy herds of Gunns Plains can be seen all year round. The dominant breed is the holstien fresian which is a large framed black and white cow, followed second by the jersey, a cow with a yellowish coat. The cows are milked twice a day and supply two main companies, National Foods and Fonterra. Both companies produce a large product range. The average herd size in Gunns Plains would be 300 cows, which are milked in a herringbone style dairy. The Wing family no longer milk cows. The family did in the past, providing milk to Lactos for over 45 years, before ceasing that operation to concentrate on Wing's Wildlife Park. The family was acknowledged from 2000 to 2004 for producing some of the best quality milk in Australia. The Wing's herd was ranked in the top 1% Australia-wide on quality. This placed the herd in the top 100 from the 10,000 dairy farms in Australia at that time. For more information see www.dpiw.tas.gov.au , www.fonterra.com , or www.natfoods.com.au.
Gunns Plains Caves
Gunns Plains Cave is in the Gunns Plains State Reserve, approximately 30 kilometres south of Ulverstone in northwest Tasmania. This ten hectare area was one of the earliest cave reserves in Tasmania, being proclaimed a State Reserve in 1918. The cave was discovered in 1906 by Bill Woodhouse during a hunting trip after, it is reputed, his dogs fell into a hole that formed part of the cave. It has been used as a show cave for most of the 20th century. It is renowned for its magnificent formations, including calcite shawls and flowstones, and has a glow-worm display. The cave was formed by an underground river that still flows and contains freshwater crayfish, fish and eel. Platypus sleep and nest in the sandy banks along the river. For more information visit www.parks.tas.gov.au.
The Gunns Plains valley travels south west gradually forming the Leven Canyon. The canyon gets its name from the river Leven which runs through it and Gunns Plains entering the Bass Strait at Ulverstone. The view is magic and the cost is free making it well worth a visit.
Tasmazia is situated in scenic countryside and can be visited on your travels toward the Cradle Mountain Valley. There are more attractions than can be mentioned so the website should be visited. One of Tasmazia's major attractions is, of course, the mazes. Tasmazia has eight (8) mazes, making it the largest maze complex in the world. Also, the very popular Village of Lower Crackpot is a whimsical artwork originally created by Brian Inder. A model village built to 1/5th scale. Each building has a story to tell, and is connected to real people, so in a way, the town is inhabited. The Pancake Parlour features a great range of uncommon and delightful sweet and savoury pancakes to suit all appetites and pockets. Please visit www.tasmazia.com.au for more information.
Cradle Mountain forms the northern end of the wild Cradle Mt - Lake St Clair National Park, itself a part of the Tasmanian World Heritage Area. The jagged contours of Cradle Mountain epitomise the feel of a wild landscape, while ancient rainforest and alpine heathlands, buttongrass and stands of colourful deciduous beech provide a range of environments to explore. Icy streams cascading out of rugged mountains, stands of ancient pines mirrored in the still waters of glacial lakes and a wealth of wildlife ensure there is always something to captivate you. The area is one of the most popular natural areas in Tasmania. A visit will reveal why. For more information visit www.parks.tas.gov.au .
Lucas Hotel Latrobe, see more information at www.lucashotellatrobe.com.au (ala carte) .
High Tide Waterfront resturant at Devonport (alacarte).
Whiskey Distillery Burnie, see more information at www.hellyersroaddistillery.com.au (cafe).