Jack Larm, Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
Taking the waters at La Primavera
Working for Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm was definitely the reason I became interested in the history of the area and, particularly, in the contributions made by the newly arrived Swiss Italian immigrants. Mostly poor farmers from Italian speaking parts of southern Switzerland – from the steep valley regions of Ticino – they started to arrive in the Hepburn Shire from the 1850s onward. Few made it rich finding gold, but these mountain folk proved to be hard working and established many successful farms across the Hepburn region. As I delved into the story of the Tinetti family that farmed where Lavandula now stands , my interest in the larger Swiss Italian story grew. As a child immigrant myself, I couldn’t help but empathise with the struggle of Tinettis to try and build a new life for themselves and their community.
Arguably, the Hepburn Shire would not be the Spa Capital of Australia if it wasn’t for the determination and foresight of the Swiss Italians. Many of them had come from spa towns themselves and they had a good knowledge of the value of the Shire’s underground mineral waters, especially as a health-giving tonic. In particular, Doctor Severino Guscetti, head of the local committee, pleaded with the Colonial government in 1862 to safeguard the natural mineral waters from increased gold exploration in the region. It took five years for his recommendations to be finalised, but the good doctor and his mostly Italian-speaking committee members managed to save the underground water, and establish a large parcel of land as a protected reserve.
One of the great celebrations of the Swiss Italians is spring, or La Primavera. Having survived a long, cold winter, the return of the sun is something they certainly don’t take for granted. Lavandula Farm continues this tradition and we’ve been busily putting the final touches for our own special event, La Primavera festival, on Sunday 18th November. In conjunction with the Live Love Life Weekend, our Swiss Italian festival will include the services of a number of local healing practitioners. I’ll be running a Water Bar where visitors can sample some of the region’s best mineral waters and learn a little about its health-giving benefits. In true Swiss Italian spirit, La Primavera will be a day for the whole family. Music, food, history, local craftspeople and acres and acres of gardens and grounds to explore.