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Farm Yarns

High Valley Dawn

How can we build healthy sustainable communities and lead positive change if we ourselves and other members of our communities are not well physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?

In the quiet embrace of Yeppoon’s rolling hinterland rests High Valley Dawn, a sanctuary for seeds and souls alike. As soon as you enter the gates, everything seems to slow down here —a sensation that Ange, an employee, attributes to the harmonious energy consciously cultivated by owner Ross O’Reilly. This energy resonates with a unique harmony, fully synchronized with nature.

High Valley Dawn isn’t just a regenerative permaculture farm; it’s a dynamic, self-sustaining community model focused on fostering love and joy in harmony with nature. While visiting for our latest Farm Yarn feature, we learned that the farm prioritises its community mission over mere food production.

Ross ‘s approach emphasises people over plants. Visitors come to learn how to live with empathy and compassion, supporting one another in a nurturing environment. “That’s vitally important,” Ross says. “We need this as much as we need to care for our planet.”

Looking to the future, High Valley Dawn aims to become a leading centre for regenerative farming education and a top healing retreat in Australia. This vision highlights the transformative potential of blending human and land welfare.

We spoke to Ross about his aspirations for High Valley Dawn and how he believes regenerative agriculture can profoundly impact lives daily.

What is the story of how High Valley Dawn came to be?

High Valley Dawn is a 140 acre property only 4km from Rosslyn Bay Harbour, Yeppoon, about one third of the way up the Queensland coast. The project started in 2016 on an undeveloped vacant bush block covered in lantana and wattle. This property was gifted to the O’Reilly family by close friend the late Dawn Noble. Ross and Dawn shared a vision about what could be created on this parcel of land, together they saw something very special that would lead some positive change and serve our local community and beyond, hence a wonderful journey began.

We have had an amazing success rate in getting people in recovery ready to go back into society following a lengthy stint on the farm where they eat good fresh organic food, get good exercise doing their 25 hours per week voluntary work and get lots of love and support.

How do you weave the three principles of permaculture into the fabric of High Valley Dawn?

The three permaculture ethics we practice are earth care, people care and fair share.

1. Earth Care – we do not use any chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or any synthetic fertilisers. We make our own compost to give back to the soil, use swales on the slopes to prevent erosion and loss of topsoil, use companion planting and utilise beneficial insects to control pests. We also work with the subtle energies of the land and have had the Darumbal Elders involved from day one.

2. People Care – this a very important part of our farm’s operation and one dear to our hearts. We practice People Care our way, which is different to most other permaculture farms we have experienced. We have great connections with the local Community Centre who have referred a number of homeless people whom we have taken in and helped get back on their feet. We also have a good arrangement with the rehabilitation centre in Rockhampton and have had a number of people come straight from rehab to our farm for lengthy stays. We have had amazing success in helping these people ease back into society after spending up to 12 months or more with us being loved, supported and not judged. We are drug and alcohol free on the farm for this reason. We also have a great connection with AA and NA organisations in both our local towns of Yeppoon and Emu Park and have had people referred to us from here. In fact the AA and NA meetings in both of these towns are now run by two young people in their thirties who have both spent time recovering on our farm. We at the farm are very proud of the fact that our farm is having such an impact within our community by practicing ethic number two People Care.

3. Fair Share – We share our farm, knowledge and excess produce to as many people as we can in practicing Fair Share.

High Valley Dawn is a place filled with stories. Can you shed some light on the people that live and work on the farm and how they came to be there?

We always have such a diverse mix of people on the farm from WWOOF’ers (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) from all over the world (over 220 to date ) who find us through wwoof.com, Workaway, Help X and our High Valley Dawn website. Some become permanent residents and we always have people in recovery referred to us by connections previously mentioned. More and more of these people now find us by word of mouth.

From your observations, how has an ‘on farm’ experience and your implementation of ‘people care’ principles been of benefit to your extended farm-family?

We have had an amazing success rate in getting people in recovery ready to go back into society following a lengthy stint on the farm where they eat good fresh organic food, get good exercise doing their 25 hours per week voluntary work and get lots of love and support. A lot of these then go on to share their recovery journey to help others get through similar life challenges. We tell our volunteers upfront that we practice ‘people care’ and they are expected to learn how to be loving, caring, tolerant, understanding and compassionate to those less fortunate.

My mother had a big influence on my passion for People Care. I was number 10 in a family of 11 kids raised on a small dairy farm. With 13 of us sitting around the dinner table we always had extra places set for the less fortunate people my Mother would take in to care for. I was so fortunate to experience this as a child and believe it is vitally important in the practice of Permaculture.

What diversity of vegetables to you grow and how are they distributed?

Diversity on the farm is growing everyday day. We estimate we have over 1,000 edible plants throughout our 2 acre market garden, our 2 acre food forest and our 1.5 acre Australian native ‘bush tucka’ forest. We also have a growing variety of pastures and ground cover for our livestock. Our produce is distributed to our restaurant Beaches Rosslyn Bay, the local Saturday farmers markets and through our farm gate stall.

We practice People Care our way, which is different to most other permaculture farms we have experienced. We have great connections with the local Community Centre who have referred a number of homeless people whom we have taken in and helped get back on their feet.

What other offerings does the farm provide?

We have been running wellness retreats for over 10 years at Rosslyn Bay Resort with the farm playing a major part. We now have council approval for farm-stays with the intention being to have onsite accommodation to hold regenerative agriculture courses and conferences, wellness retreats of all varieties including yoga, meditation, breathwork, nutrition, father and son/mother and daughter journey to adulthood camps, permaculture design courses and all sorts of cooking classes.

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