Meet Roger and Diane Chamberlain, the passionate truffle growers behind Fernbank Truffles near the scenic town of Manjimup, Western Australia. As first-generation truffle farmers, Roger and Diane embarked on their agricultural journey after retiring from their Perth business in 2007. Their dedication to quality and their commitment to the truffle industry have made them valuable members of the Southern Forests Food Council and local community.
Upon acquiring their property, Roger and Diane decided to venture into agriculture and sought a crop that would thrive on their land. With no prior experience, they were drawn to the emerging truffle industry. After extensive research, they opted to plant oak trees, as they observed a growing trend of French Oak plantations in Europe. In 2009, they planted 1,000 French Oak and 1,000 English Oak trees, followed by their daughter Sarah and her husband Ben joining the team and planting an additional 800 English Oak trees in 2014.
The truffiere at Fernbank Truffles has faced its fair share of challenges and triumphs. The Chamberlains discovered their first truffle in 2013, and since then, their production has steadily increased each year, though there is still untapped potential. Ongoing research projects focus on forest floor management and insect control, as the truffle industry strives to find eco-friendly solutions. Managing the oak forest's acorn and leaf litter poses a specific challenge, as they seek effective ways to address this without harming the truffle.
Truffle season has begun at Fernbank Truffles and it’s an exciting time when their kelpie truffle dog, Lily, takes centre stage. While some truffles may emerge on the surface early in the year, the Chamberlains rely on Lily's exceptional sense of smell to locate the majority of the crop. The unmistakable aroma of ripe truffles triggers Lily's expert truffle-hunting instincts, leading the Chamberlains to uncovering the prized delicacy.
As dedicated producers, Roger and Diane primarily focus on truffle cultivation but have recently expanded their offering to include truffle experiences for visitors to the region. You can immerse yourself in the enchanting world of truffle hunting through their truffiere, where you’ll witness the remarkable skills of Lily, as she tracks the elusive scent of these culinary gems. After the truffle hunt, you'll have the opportunity to purchase the truffles that have been discovered, ensuring you can savour the fruits of your labour. No winter escape to the Southern Forests is complete without a truffle experience – book your hunt via their website www.fernbanktruffles.com this season.
In addition to truffles, the property boasts an olive grove consisting of 80 trees. Planted along the boundary as a windbreak and protective barrier, the olives are harvested with the help of family and friends. The olives are then taken to an olive mill, where a small batch of boutique olive oil is produced. This olive oil is sold on-site at the farm and locally through Hound and Hunter Fine Foods.
Roger and Diane Chamberlain's move to Manjimup has been a rewarding journey filled with warmth and a strong sense of community. They attribute their success to the region's favourable climate, fertile soil, and pristine environment, which make it an ideal location for producing exceptional food. The Genuinely Southern Forests brand has played a vital role in promoting the region's exquisite produce and increasing awareness among consumers.
Looking ahead, Roger and Diane envision their truffiere reaching full production potential in the coming years. Their hard work and dedication are poised to yield fruitful results, further establishing Fernbank Truffles as a prominent name in the truffle industry and Southern Forests region. Follow Fernbank Truffles on Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date with Roger and Diane's truffle journey.
Photos provided by Fernbank Truffles.