In The Spotlight - Mudgee
Only three hours by car from Sydney, and with a food and wine trail that earns plaudits in the lifestyle pages of different media outlets, it’s little wonder Mudgee’s made the transition from a ‘weekender’ to a ‘tree change’ destination over the pandemic.
Rural lots have been in hot-demand in the area, the home of the popular Mudgee Small Field Farm Days, according to McGrath Mudgee’s Adam Woods, triggering a new phase of the sector’s lifecycle in the last two years.
The Mudgee region’s elevated land profile, versatile soil composition and proximity to distribution channels have combined to support diversity across farming, livestock and bloodstock operations.
Throughout the region, about three hours by road from Sydney, you’ll find beef and super fine wool production alongside broadacre cropping and viticulture, co-existing with equal success.
Importantly, the employment-generating local coal industry doesn’t disrupt rural activities: the mines are located 50 kilometers away from Mudgee’s main street and its surface-to-coal ratio makes extraction easier.
“We’ve got a very diverse rural economy in the region,” said Woods. “Where some regions might be known for dairying, or wheat, we have a broad range of rural sectors and combined with tourism and hospitality, that’s been part of the appeal and growth of the area.”
The Mudgee region’s climate has supported a thriving food and wine industry. There are 50 cellar doors scattered throughout a region that’s well-known for award-winning cabernet sauvignon, while its quality range of whites includes Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.
Complementing the wine industry, the region has supported award-winning restaurants, cafes, cheesemakers, olive producers and other small-batch producers. “The region offers food and wine that you’d expect from any city establishment,” said Woods.
Like much of central New South Wales, exceptional seasonal conditions have supported significant demand from buyers for rural assets. Broadacre farms are attracting $20,000 a cow area, said Woods.
“Those prices have doubled from what they were three to five years ago,” he said.
“Irrigated lots are fetching anywhere from $25,000-$35,000 an acre."
Large-scale agribusiness assets are few and very tightly held, as reflected by the premiums paid recorded over the last two years. But its greatest demand is for smaller rural lifestyle opportunities.
Fittingly, the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days have been a staple of the region’s commercial and social calendar since its first exhibition was held in the area in 1977. Through the 1970s and 1980s, around 7000 lots ranging from 10-40ha were developed in the region and they continue to draw appeal from people relocating to the region. “There's lots of constant turnover. The lifecycle of a lifestyle farm moves through various phases: young families wanting to retreat from the city; the family grows up; then the parents move into the retirement stage, and the farm becomes somewhere the children and grandchildren can come back to, or else it becomes surplus to their needs and offloaded.
“The lifestyle farm then enters a new era, being taken up by the next wave of young families coming to the region. We’ve seen this emerge as a real trend out of the pandemic.”