About Vale Hill
Vale Hill farm, located on the fertile volcanic plains of scenic Smeaton, is one of the many business ventures of inspirational co-owners Chris Malden and Wayne Cross.
Bought in 2007, the 330 acre farm was the pair’s entrée into agriculture. Now, it offers respite and a complete change of scene from the busy world the pair has built for themselves in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.
Vale Hill was bought with sustainability and food production in mind, to naturally raise and care for their livestock. Wayne says they always had the vision that its sheep, cattle and fresh produce would supply food to the hotel – Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel in Hepburn Springs.
“It was one way we could control quality of meat and fresh produce for the restaurant,” Wayne says.
With this in mind, Chris and Wayne set about planting an orchard with a myriad of fruit trees and building their herd of rare breed British White and Highland cattle and rare breed Hampshire Down sheep mob.
Today there are more than 100 head of cattle and a similar number of sheep. Stocking Vale Hill farm with rare breed animals was a conscious decision and Chris says they were immediately convinced after talking with a local representative from the Rare Breeds Association.
“We wanted to do something different with the cattle and sheep and through friends we were introduced to the British Whites, Highlands and Hampshire Downs and we haven’t looked back.” Chris says.
The animals are fattened and finished among the lush green pastures at Musk and processed locally in nearby Kyneton. To ensure the meat and pelts avoid any undue stress or damage the animals are treated with utmost care and to reduce and eliminate waste, the large hides of the British Whites are prepared for sale along with the meat.
Alongside the resident animal population at Vale Hill is an impressive orchard with about 400 fruit trees – including varieties such as fig, quince, pears and apples, about 80 citrus trees – including blood oranges and ruby red grapefruit , 200 raspberry canes, 100 strawberry plants and a large vegetable plot producing seasonal favourites such as fennel, beetroot, garlic and artichokes.
Hedging at the property has also been done with edible plants such as bay trees, carob and olives and Chris explains their philosophy of planting “may as well be done with things we can use”.
The purchase of Vale Hill has further helped Chris and Wayne integrate into the rural community. They have joined the local landcare group and helped generate funding to restore the local cemetery.
They are already introducing new bloodlines to the sheep and cattle herd and are increasing production of the orchard while continuing to supply the hotel with fresh local produce.