The team at Watervale Hotel are passionate about fresh local food and Clare Valley produce.
Our Promise – To follow Permaculture Principles
Our total business follows Permaculture ethical principles, not just the Farm. We are guided by Jared Murray of ‘Green Living Permaculture’ along this path. The ethics at the core of Permaculture practice are equally applicable at the Watervale Hotel; that is everything we do:
- Must be healthy for the planet,
- take care of people,
- and lead to an equitable distribution of wealth and well-being.
Permaculture businesses are a sustainable, self-sufficient eco-system – economic and ecological.
The following chart are a framework that list the 12 principles of permaculture design.
The principles are a useful check-list to assess and re-assess your own farming practices, but not a roadmap for execution of permaculture farming. That is because every farm is different – soils, climate, commercial or personal objectives.
Watervale Hotel and Penobscot Farm permaculture practices
Permaculture principles not only guide us for design of Penobscot Farm, they permeate every aspect of our business and the way we manage the Watervale Hotel.
The three core values govern much of our decision making.
- We care for the earth. The way we manage Penobscot Farm is built on a premise of regenerative agriculture. Similarly, our supply partnerships and the way we re-use and manage waste at the Watervale Hotel always recognizes the Earth as a critical stakeholder in our business.
- We care for people. The Watervale Hotel menus, spaces and experiences have been designed to meet the needs of different customers and different occasions. Our suppliers are genuinely partners. We can not operate and meet customer expectations without the support of our staff. They must align to our values and objectives, so we need to provide them with what they need at this stage of their lives. Stability, growth and development, pathways to visa extension or permanent residency.
- We share. We are all about growing the pie so everyone gets a bigger slice. We have built a spectacular venue to attract more visitors to the region – for everyone! We never push back on price for the produce we buy. We would rather seek a new partner.
The twelve design principles also apply to our business.
We value diversity, in fact we leverage it. Our front of house and kitchen teams are from all over the world, and have complimentary skills and experience. We aim to have a venue that everyone feels comfortable in, irrespective of sexual preference, ethnic background, how they choose to eat or religious belief. We plant the weird and wonderful in the garden in order to generate diversity on the plate – heirloom varieties and food that comes in different colours, shapes, sizes and flavours.
Whilst we Share, we must make a good yield. You can only have ecological sustainability if you have economic sustainability. We can’t share if we go broke. Wealth combined with communitarian values creates the opportunity for sharing. We price fairly. Our produce is much more expensive that that bought from a Supermarket. Great staff cost more.
Integration is the key to everything we do. The word integrity has the same base. It means to be whole; to think, feel and act as one. Penobscot Farm and our other suppliers are the hero behind the Watervale Hotel. Our Chefs enhance and enrich the natural flavours in an authentic way. Our six senses Penobscot Farm Tour and six Course Watervale Hotel degustation dinner is the perfect example of an integrated experience.
Design is not something you apply to a space, whether it is permaculture design of a farm, or design of our hotel. The space, the earth, the aspect, the respect you show for buildings or trees that you want to retain will direct design. The Watervale Hotel design respected the old hotel and jail. The key was how to create space within and between these buildings. We needed to consider the patterns or flow of patrons as well as staff. Visually we needed to create seamless connection between old and new.
Edges, or points of interconnection are critical, not just in terms of space but also energy and interaction. Customers enter through the edges of our development. This experience must be warm, exciting, inviting, creating positive anticipation. This is where people interact with space. Interconnection between front and back of house, the kitchen is vital for service. The areas behind the public spaces are important for receiving goods, storage, and managing waste. They need to be efficient but invisible. The farm is exactly that but it is also a tour experience venue. It needs to be managed in a way that welcomes guests.
Starting slow and small has been our mantra, although it may not look like that. We kept the Watervale Hotel open as we developed to retain connection with the locals and to learn as we built our brand. We keep the menu and the execution of our food genuine and authentic to their source. Although our hotel is large, we have designed it to be a collective of smaller private or semi-private spaces. Everything we do needs to appear unrushed. We will grow organically at a rate the universe will allow. COVID 19 has slowed us, but perhaps the end result will be better?
Good farmers observe and react to what is going on in the farm. In hospitality one must be acutely aware of the mood and ambience of the dining and drinking environment, as well as the mood of all of the individuals in the venue – how they are reacting to space, light, temperature, music, other guests, the food, drink, comfort of seats. It is much better to interact and monitor pleasure or disappointment on the spot than to read about it in a review when it is too late.
Receiving feedback must always be done objectively and positively. In hospitality it is always better to listen and respect the customers feedback. It could be that the customer is in the wrong place. Everything one receives must be considered as an opportunity to improve, if only to fine tune the communication that sets expectations. Most people will accept a poor experience as an honest mistake, or if they are listened to and process improves.
Sometimes the feedback we receive is from the universe. It is the recognition of a process of change. COVID restrictions are a good example. We did not want them, but they have positively changed the way we have set up spaces, engage with every customer on arrival, and kept spaces clean. Another example is climate change. Our new vineyard will be set up to provide maximum canopy shade to the fruit.
Catching and storing energy is something we do everywhere we operate, whether that is use of solar energy or how we manage energy levels of staff. Our focus on wood ovens and BBQ as alternative to electricity or gas is important.
Water is a very limited resource in the Clare Valley. We try to limit its use and re-use waste water for plants. At Penobscot the regenerative agriculture is all designed to maximise the amount of rainwater in the top soil and available to plants as well as seeping into the water table. Money is another scarce renewable resource!
No waste is central to all of this. Don’t waste energy, time, money, water, electricity or gas, produce or space. We try to re-use everything. We use material hand towels. We use cardboard boxes as weed-mat. We use the whole animal nose to tail, and plants root to flower.