The broad span of the Monaro landscape could hardly be called treed but Will and Caroline Jardine of the Nimmitabel Bakery have experienced one of the more dramatic leafy revolutions. The sea change/tree change thing is fast becoming a meaningless cliché but not for those experiencing it. Just imagine what it would be like to swap the frenzy of the futures floor and the stress of sorting out conferences for a large hotel chain for the quiet of Nimmitabel’s main street and the warmth of the bakery’s ovens. Few experiences could compare.
Nimmitabel’s name has aboriginal origins and means “where the waters start”. It has had many spellings over the years. A favourite is Nimity Belle which suits it perfectly — it’s the sort of pretty country town built and maintained by proud generations of farmers who look after their stuff. It’s also surprisingly accessible; a mere 40km from Cooma, 150km from Canberra and an hour’s drive to the south coast or the snowfields.
Decamping from the rat race in Sydney to the gentle ovine pace of the Monaro helps if you have some roots (to continue tree analogy) and the Jardine family penetrate deeply into Nimmitabel history. Since 1845 five generations have farmed at Curry Flat. Caroline has a country background too. She grew up in Goulburn which is not as high and lonesome as Nimmitabel, but sheep country it is with big skies and ferociously frosty mornings.
Huge life changes are rarely intricately planned — fate plays as big a part as strategy. “We knew we wanted to come back to Nimmitabel, but we needed an income stream,” Caroline says. “We used to always talk about what we would do differently if we owned the bakery, then, one day Will was speaking to the previous owner and mentioned that if he ever wanted to sell to let us know. Quite a few months went by, then we got a call. It was quite a shock because what had previously been a dream was now a real possibility. It took us a while to decide what we should do. Quite a scary prospect considering neither of us were experienced in bakery, but we took the leap and here we are.”
Hungry High Country travellers will applaud their decision. There are not just pies (up to 2000 are baked on premise each week), but slices, cakes, tarts, banana bread and an artisian bread range – enough in the ovens to keep three bakers on staff.
This story was originally published in the December / January 2014 issue of Australian Country. Don’t miss an issue and subscribe to the magazine here.
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Words Siobhan O’Brien
Photography Stephanie Lees