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What began as a traditional apple orchard on Seven Day Road has blossomed into a diversified haven of avocados, passionfruit, and the coveted black Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum). The Walker family have shaped their farm into a powerhouse of production showcasing their resilience, innovation, and passion.

Thea and Jim walker with passionfruit

Jim and Steff Walker, along with their three children—Thea, Millie, and Tom—have dedicated themselves to creating a sustainable and thriving agricultural enterprise. Seven Days Farm, utilising the fertile soils of Manjimup, benefits from a unique climate that supports a variety of crops. The decision to transition from apples to a diverse range of produce was strategic. Jim explains, “Our apple orchard was nearing the end of its production life, and we saw an opportunity to diversify with crops that suit our lifestyle and the region’s climate.”

This strategic diversification not only spread the risk associated with farming but also provided year-round cash flow. The Walkers' farm now boasts a vibrant mix of avocados, passionfruit, and truffles—each with its unique set of challenges and rewards.

Truffle cultivation, particularly the black Périgord truffle, has been the most intriguing and challenging endeavour for the Walkers. The black Périgord truffle, renowned for its rich, earthy aroma and exquisite taste, has a storied history. Native to Europe, particularly France, Italy, and Spain, truffle production dates back centuries. The fungus grows symbiotically with the roots of certain trees, such as oaks and hazelnuts, maturing in the cold winter months.

Jim and Thea Walker off to do a job.

Outside Europe, truffle cultivation is relatively new, but the Southern Forests region has emerged as a significant producer. In fact, Australia is now the largest producer of black Périgord truffles outside of Europe, thanks to regions like Manjimup with its conducive climate and soil conditions.

Thea Walker, the eldest of the Walker children, has become deeply involved in overseeing the management of the trufferie throughout the seasons. Her days are a fusion of hands-on farming activities and strategic planning. "Each season presents its unique array of tasks," Thea explains. "From managing irrigation and tree-pruning to ensuring optimal ground conditions, there's never a dull moment.”

The truffle season at Seven Days Farm is a time of anticipation and hard work. Thea explains, “Harvesting truffles is both an art and a science. We use trained dogs to locate the mature truffles, which are hidden a few centimetres below the soil. It’s a delicate process—truffles must be handled carefully to preserve their quality.”

Despite the challenges, Thea finds the work deeply rewarding. “There’s something magical about uncovering a truffle,” she says. “Knowing the effort that has gone into nurturing the trees and the soil makes each find incredibly satisfying.”

Sustainability is at the core of Seven Days Farm’s operations. The Walkers are committed to preserving the health of their soil and the broader environment. “We believe that healthy soil leads to healthy trees and high-quality produce,” Thea notes. The farm employs a range of sustainable practices tailored for the different produce types, including cover cropping, mulching, and minimising chemical inputs. These efforts not only enhance soil health but also promote biodiversity and reduce the farm’s ecological footprint.

The Walkers are also active members of the local community. They regularly participate in farmers’ markets and local festivals, fostering a direct connection with consumers. “Engaging with the community is incredibly important to us,” Thea emphasises. “It’s not just about selling produce; it’s about sharing our passion and educating people about the benefits of locally grown food.”

As Seven Days Farm looks to the future, expansion and innovation are key themes. The Walkers plan to expand their avocado orchard and explore new varieties of passionfruit. They are also keen to refine their avocado orchard management strategies to improve yields and efficiency. “Our goal is to create a sustainable and thriving farm that can be passed down to the next generation,” Jim explains. “We’re always looking for ways to improve and grow.”

Thea and Stanley the dog with a truffle in the trufferie.

For those considering a foray into farming in the Southern Forests region, Thea offers some sage advice. “Get out and talk to people. The farming community here is incredibly supportive and knowledgeable. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and learn from others. And most importantly, have a genuine love and passion for what you do.”

In the verdant landscapes of Manjimup, the Walker family’s dedication to sustainable farming and high-quality produce shines through. Seven Days Farm is not just a business; it’s a labour of love, a testament to the hard work and vision of a family committed to making a positive impact on their community and the environment. And at the heart of it all, Thea Walker continues to lead the charge, nurturing not just truffles, but a legacy of innovation and excellence in the Southern Forests.

You can follow the journey of Seven Days Farm on Instagram: @sevendaysfarms

Photography by Craig Kinder for Genuinely Southern Forests.


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