As I leave the ocean flanked coast and drive up the winding road into the hinterland, the air is sweet, crisp and fresh. I’m heading out to Jinibara country this weekend, to see for myself, what The Planting Festival is all about. The landscape is so picturesque, I can’t help but feel relaxed and curious about the activities that are on offer over this long weekend. I drive to the end of Commissioners Flat road and turn towards the township of Woodford. I see the famous ‘Woodfordia’ sign atop the hill at the home of the festival and know I have arrived. Woodfordia, the cultural parkland out in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast is also host to another gathering, one of Queensland’s largest music festivals – Woodford Folk Festival (27 December 2018 – 1 January 2019. This land was formerly a dairy farm, hence was quite barren. The idea way back when they purchased the land in 1994, was to plant out the property to create more shade for this event. Thus, The Planting Festival was born, creating the luscious green acreage I am now standing on. As you walk around the property you can see so much variety in the vegetation and habitats that have been plotted out. In fact, throughout this festival there are walks you can join to see the abundant bush foods and wildlife.


The team behind both Woodford Folk Festival and The Planting are dedicated to providing an educational experience, as well as all the fun things a festival offers. The carefully curated program is part of their commitment to creating a conscious community to care for our planet using sustainable practices to enhance the environment and minimise human impact. Since the first working bee style tree-planting back in 1997, The Planting has seen teams of environmental warriors plant over 100,000 trees. That is an incredible effort that we are now all benefiting from, whenever we attend a festival or event at Woodfordia. Throughout the year there are other environmental projects going on. One such project is soil restoration using biochar which is a by-product of bamboo treatment that boosts soil productivity and other activities that increase Woodfordia’s biodiversity, creating habitats for particular species of animals.


The bamboo is very important to Woodfordia, as for many years there have been some incredible bamboo structures built around the festival precinct. Woodfordia has planted its own bamboo forest. Together with Nici and Jed Long from Cave Urban, several members of their collective, and Arief Rabik, director of the International Bamboo Foundation, they have installed two bamboo preservation chambers that have been instrumental in boosting their sustainable soil projects. The bamboo is preserved in these chambers and can then be used to make structures around Woodfordia that provide both decoration and shade.  The by-product of this treatment, biochar, is then used to draw carbons back into the soil and boost its productivity. Last year, two new major bamboo projects were constructed. An expansive covered walkway was constructed that also housed misting hoses to keep patrons cool in the summer festival heat, and a large open dwelling with a mezzanine level complete with hammocks for patrons to chillout. The innovation here is truly inspiring.


Now what festival would be complete without a good bar to water oneself? There are a couple here and my first stop is the Crafty Bar. All sorts of delicious carbonated ales from local breweries are being served here. They have Porter, Stout, Lager and Pale Ale, 13 craft beers, 1 apple cider and 1 ginger beer in total. Throughout the festival there are talks on offer and a panel with the local brewers who have their beer on tap here, so it is an awesome opportunity to get in on the action, ask for a few hints and pick up some useful knowledge from the crew that are doing it best. Set backing onto the pond, the Deck Bar is a serenity station for a quiet recharge and a beverage, that is until session time. Think burlesque or cabaret style atmosphere with luscious textures, smooth velvet soft furnishings and comfy leather couches. This bar is one for the musos. Several times throughout the festival, anyone who wishes to can take part in a jam session – just BYO instrument. It’s such a cool way to get involved with the musicians attending the festival. I found myself there a few times enjoying some uplifting gypsy jazz. There is similar musical revelry going on at different times in the aptly named Sessions Bar closer to the middle of the festival precinct.


Strewn around the festival there is some incredible mural artwork utilised as fencing and barriers. It really adds to the atmosphere of this festival and the artful scene that is such a big element of Woodfordia’s identity. Perusing the program, there are so many things to do and see, one would never have time to get to them all. I need to decide if I would like to get into some body percussion, ponder if Ibis are sacred messengers or bin chickens with Prof. Darryl Jones, or discover Queensland frogs with ecologist Harry Hines. I haven’t even glanced at the music yet and already my day is full! There are several artisan workshops being held where you can make leather goods, learn herbal first aid with local ‘Medicine Room’ herbalist Dominique LivKamal, or cook with celebrity Chef Matt Golinski.


Every year, festival organisers come up with super fun activities aimed at different age groups. To create such an inclusive program is imperative; every attendee is catered for here and the children’s festival has some amazing activities. For the 11– 7 year olds, they have an area set up to build things. There are power tools, piles of wooden pallets and plenty of room for the kids to get creative and build a little city. I am excited to see how this progresses over the weekend. Further along there are a couple of marquees; inside there are numerous tables set with art and craft materials for all ages to get into. There’s painting, collage and all sorts of fun bits and pieces to entertain. This is also the site for the children’s entertainment. Across the way there are some bamboo frames that the 7–10 year olds are being encouraged to make into hobbit homes using clay, straw, palm fronds and other random materials. This looks like a fun project for any child to be involved in.


As I discovered this long weekend, The Planting is more than just planting a few shade trees to transform an old dairy farm. It is all about demonstrating complete inclusiveness, with something on the program for everyone. The golden thread running through each activity here is environmental sustainability. Woodfordia is setting a world class example in their commitment to providing a program that nurtures environmental education initiatives for all ages; it means we all walk away with the gift of making a conscious decision every day to make the small changes locally that make the biggest differences globally. Maybe, next May long weekend, you might consider getting involved and leaving a piece of you in spirit at Woodfordia for the greater good of our planet.


Kate Lawrence
Author: Kate Lawrence

Creativity, Community, Culture