The seeds for Learmonth Cider Plus began over 20 years ago. It coincided with a family decision to relocate from Melbourne to the Ballarat area. Spring Vale Farm was chosen. Then began the hard work of planting the orchard that now supplies the apples for our award-winning ciders.
Spring Vale Farm
Learmonth Cider Plus was founded over 20 years ago at Spring Vale Farm. The name reflects the nearby natural springs. It coincided with a family decision to relocate from Melbourne to the Ballarat area – for schooling and the childrens’ interests with horses and animals.
Learmonth was chosen because it is only 15 minutes to the centre of Ballarat, with its extensive education, retail, medical and transport facilities. The train service to Melbourne takes under 1.5 hours and travel to Tullarmarine Airport takes about 1 hour.
Spring Vale Farm was originally an outstation to Ercildone and featured in a book of the time entitled the ‘Journey of a Welsh Swagman’. The farm has been used for a wide range of uses over its 160 years. Many of the buildings were in a very poor state – not so now.
Early inspiration for cider making came from travelling and working in Ireland, the UK and Europe. So began the planting of an apple orchard with heritage varieties.
321 Learmonth & 321 Learmonth Cider
Ten years ago the historic wooden buildings at 321 High Street were acquired and completely renovated – starting with the foundations. The original footprint and as much of the original structure as possible was retained.
The buildings front the Sunraysia Highway and back onto Lake Learmonth.
They have served many purposes over the past 150 years – including as a general store, a fish shop and as a residence. With the completion of the renovations, the buildings were repurposed as a café and providore, as well as a retail outlet for our 321 Learmonth Cider.
It is now the home of Sidra Café and includes a general store, post office, café, a cider bar and conducts celebrations.
Learmonth Primary School transformation
Three years ago the Learmonth Primary School came up for sale by the State Government. We decided to buy the site and repurpose the buildings.
Public forums were held and a community committee selected the cider proposal for its reuse. Key uses are:
1. Learning – including E2E Training
2. Innovation – experimentation in E2E
3. Growing – different varieties (Plantings + Propagation) and Indigenous food garden and products
4. Making – experimental and community involvement
5. Foundations – including projects driven by community.
The old school building (1862) has become an innovation and education centre while the hall has been converted into a centre for cider.
The rear of the property has been converted into a research orchard whilst the old shed is used for propagation.
Community Vision (as presented to RDV)
The vision approved by the community is to create a sustainable ‘Best Practice’ Education, Research, Innovation, Production and Tourist ‘Hub’ – focused on Learning and Innovation – using local cider as an initial focus, with other local produce and services to follow. Sustainability in this case means economically viable and ownership of key elements is in the hands of community members.
Learmonth Cider Plus
The infrastructure is now in place. The opportunity now is to operationalise, accelerate, and extend the Learmonth Cider Plus vision.